A major challenge for employers and managers is keeping their industrial site workers properly hydrated during hot summer months. Soaring temperatures along with layers of required PPE equipment can create hazardous, even fatal conditions for workers. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very real potential dangers. Beyond its direct health impact, however, dehydration can also cause additional workplace hazards by compromising workers’ ability to focus and function, elevating the risk of accidents and injury.
Warning Signs of Dehydration
In the interests of safety, managers are strongly advised to become familiar with the warning signs of dehydration. In addition, workers should be instructed on how to spot dehydration and encouraged to keep a careful watch on co-workers. Those most at risk are individuals working in direct sun for long hours while wearing personal protection equipment layers.
According to OSHA, these are the common physical signs of dehydration.
- Extreme thirst
- Cool, clammy skin
- Goosebumps or chills
- No longer perspiring
- Darkly colored urine
- Excessive fatigue
- Sunken eyes
- Red face
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dry mouth
Preventing Worksite Dehydration
It makes sense for managers to have procedures in place to protect workers from dehydration in extreme heat. A good first step is instituting frequent breaks under shade or in a cool shelter to allow workers to reduce their body temperature.
Workers should be encouraged to drink water approximately every fifteen minutes at the rate of one quart (4 cups) per hour to replace lost fluids. Water is the best beverage choice, as coffee and soft drinks containing caffeine will deplete electrolytes more quickly and worsen dehydration.
At the End of the Workday
Workers should be reminded that when they return home after a long day in the heat, it is important to check their urine color. Dark yellow urine indicates dehydration, requiring the individual to keep drinking water until they pass clear urine.