Dehydration in the workplace leads to poor productivity and morale as well as causing safety issues as a result of reduced cognitive abilities, performance and reaction times. It is critical to ensure workers understand the various hydration strategies they can implement and are given the necessary tools to minimise dehydration.
Pre shift hydration:
Research has found that a worrying number of workers come to work already dehydrated, especially in blue collar industries where pre-shift hydration is so important.
Those working in physical jobs or in hot and humid conditions will struggle to rehydrate during their shift, leading to serious safety issues on the worksite as well as reduced productivity and morale.
Workers should be encouraged to consume fluids while travelling to or from work for an easy way to boost pre and post-shift hydration.
By having a bottle of fluid in the car at all times, regular consumption can become a habit.
Sites are increasingly implementing pre-shift hydration testing and preventing those workers who are dehydrated from commencing work.
Carry fluids at all times:
The generally accepted guideline for fluid consumption is around 2.6 litres each day, however greater amounts may be required by those in hot and humid conditions or performing physical activity.
Hydration is best maintained if fluids are consumed regularly in smaller volumes rather than in large irregular amounts. Implementing a programmed drinking strategy is recommended.
This requires that fluids are readily available. Drink stations should be easily accessible, while providing workers with a hydration backpack or a 600ml bottle with a tool belt attachment will encourage fluid consumption.
Don’t Rely on Thirst
The thirst sensation is not a reliable indicator of dehydration as it usually occurs at around 2% dehydration, at which point performance has already reduced by up to 30%.
Furthermore, the thirst sensation is usually alleviated before full hydration is reached, although it can be used as an early warning signal that sufficient fluids are not being consumed.
Monitor Urine Colour:
Monitoring urine colour is a simple yet reasonably accurate method to determine hydration status.
By collecting a urine sample and comparing its colour to an eight-scale urine colour chart, a quick assessment can be made.
Lighter or pale coloured urine generally indicates better levels of hydration than darker yellow or brown urine, which indicates dehydration.
However urine colour can be influenced by dietary factors such as the consumption of vitamin B or caratone, which may turn urine yellow or orange, while beetroot may give it a reddish tinge. Caffeine and some medications may also affect urine colour.
Testing should be done using a clear vial or cup and the colour assessed against a white background. Assessing urine mid-flow or when diluted in toilet water may provide inaccurate readings.
Taste encourages fluid consumption:
The taste of a drink is an important element of encouraging its consumption, however the high sugar content in many juices, cordials and sports drinks can lead to obesity, diabetes and other diseases.
Fluids available should be a balance of water and low-sugar electrolyte drinks with essential electrolytes and amino acids to replace that lost in sweat and not replaced by food.
Consider Individual Lifestyle Choices:
Alcohol or excessive caffeine consumption dehydrates the body and energy drinks such as Red Bull or Monster have been banned on some work sites due to their hyper-caffeinated content, lack of nutritional value and detrimental health effects.
A healthy diet will deliver fluids to the body along with essential minerals, salts and amino acids however heat often contributes to a loss of appetite while an unhealthy diet is often low in fluids.
For more information on these and other more technical strategies on managing and minimising dehydration in the workforce, download the THORZT Workplace Dehydration Guide.