As sweltering temperatures roll across the U.S., breaking back-to-back daily records across the West Coast, most locations will experience their hottest days of the year over the next two weeks. With that said, employers need to prepare their workforces to aid in preventing dehydration while on the job.
“Dehydration causes additional stress on our bodies and can increase the dangers of preexisting heart conditions,” says Kevin O’Sadnick, Senior Risk Control Manager at Safety National. “Chronic illnesses can cause additional risks, so promoting proper hydration, even away from work, is critical to keeping employees safe.”
These five tips can help your employees beat the heat while also promoting the recognizable warning signs of dehydration in their co-workers.
Ensure that employees are hydrated before the start of a shift.
Starting the day dehydrated makes it more challenging to adequately hydrate during the shift and puts workers at a greater risk for heat-related illness. Encourage workers to hydrate before they feel thirsty. By the time a worker feels thirsty, they are already behind in fluid replacement.
Educate the workforce on the signs of heat cramps and heat exhaustion.
If both heat cramps and heat exhaustion go unattended, they could progress to heatstroke, which can be fatal. Employees should be reminded of the symptoms and remain vigilant for themselves and their co-workers. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include rapid heartbeat, heavy sweating, extreme weakness or fatigue, dizziness and nausea. Heat cramps may include muscle cramps, pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs. Employees should contact their doctor right away if they experience similar symptoms or for further information regarding the symptoms or signs of heat exhaustion and heat cramps.
Monitor weather reports and schedule work during the coolest parts of the day.
Routine maintenance and repairs should be scheduled during cooler seasons to avoid high heat exposure. If unavoidable, rescheduling these jobs to the coolest parts of the day can reduce risks.
Take hydration breaks every hour.
When performing strenuous activity in the heat, offer workers at least one cup of water every 15 minutes, or approximately one liter per hour. Avoid serving diuretics, such as energy or caffeinated drinks. Water is generally sufficient for hydration, as long as regular meals are included to replenish electrolytes.
Consider using cooling vests or water-dampened suits with fans.
Fans promote evaporation which is among the most efficient methods for lowering the temperature. Workers with water-dampened PPE need a dousing station to re-dampen their clothing.