Air travel and dehydration in FIFO workers
One of the key occupational hazards that mining industry workers face is dehydration, which often begins before they even arrive on site.
The nature of Fly-In Fly-Out (FIFO) employment requires workers spend many hours commuting on planes which can increase the risk of dehydration resulting in reduced productivity on the job.
Within most planes humidity is kept between around 10%-20% (like a desert) compared to a comfortable humidity of 40-50%. On long flights – more than four hours – cabin humidity dips even lower.
Side effects of low cabin humidity are tiredness, reduced concentration, dry eyes, throat and nose leading to increased respiratory infections.
Research discussed in THORZT’s Dehydration White Paper found that Australian mining workers are regularly dehydrated at the start of their shift.
“Research shows that dehydrated workers are unlikely to recover during the shift, meaning they are operating with reduced cognitive function, endangering themselves and their colleagues,” the white paper states.
Even mild dehydration – classified as a loss of 1-4% of body mass in fluids – can cause serious safety issues on the worksite as well as reduced productivity and morale.
Educating workers about the signs, symptoms and dangers of dehydration is critical to having them starting their shifts in good health, whether they have travelled by plane or not.
Effective workplace hydration management programs also include hydration testing and the provision of fluid consumption guidelines.
Travel Hydration Tips:
Travellers often drink less water and more caffeinated drinks or alcohol on flights – both of which have a diuretic effect and hasten dehydration. Drink alcohol and caffeine in moderation or avoid them completely before and during flights.
Stay hydrated during your flight by drinking at least three glasses of water every two hours and drink water regularly in the lead-up to boarding.
Eat hydrating foods such as fruit and vegetables and avoid high protein and overly salty meals. Eating regular, small, fluid-rich meals helps your body stay hydrated and replaces lost sodium and electrolytes.
During extended periods without food, lost salts and minerals can be replaced with a low or zero-sugar hydration solution and is a quick and easy way to rehydrate while providing the body with much-needed electrolytes.
Continue to rehydrate after the flight. If your urine is yellow or brown
General Air Travel Tips:
Moisten your face and eyes frequently and use a moisturiser. It is preferable to use glasses rather than contact lenses when flying.
Ear or sinus pain may increase when dehydrated, especially if you have a cold. Discomfort can be minimised by using a nasal decongestant spray prior to take off and landing.