Drug and alcohol testing is commonplace on Australian mining and construction sites while companies are also increasingly introducing worker hydration testing as part of their safety programs.
It’s not surprising that heat stress management has become a greater Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) priority than in the past, with companies being made more aware of the dangers dehydrated employees pose.
The THORZT white paper Workplace Dehydration – The Essential Guide illustrates the serious health and safety risks associated with dehydration and discusses the various benefits of workplace hydration testing along with testing methods
“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,” the White Paper states.
Given differing individual hydration requirements, regularly monitoring worker hydration levels through testing is key to preventing and treating dehydration.
Miners including Rio Tinto and construction companies such as Leighton Contractors are taking the lead with workplace hydration testing.
Rio Tinto reports in the Gladstone Observer that its staff recognise the value of hydration monitoring and that it’s not unusual for it workers to compare urine checks and guess their results prior to a urine analysis test.
The Workplace Dehydration paper discusses a number of measures employers can use to evaluate staff hydration. They include:
A urine sample can be taken and its colour compared to an eight scale chart. Lighter or pale coloured urine generally indicates better levels of hydration than darker yellow or brown urine, which indicates dehydration.
Testing should be done using a clear vial or cup and the colour assessed against a white background.
Urine Specific Gravity (USG)
More accurate than urine colour analysis is testing the urine for specific gravity which measures levels of molecules and solutes, also known as water-urine concentration and density.
Body Mass and Fluid Intake
Measuring changes in body mass from pre to post-shift, or night to morning, is another quick and easy method to test hydration. Accuracy relies upon the initial test being conducted on a subject in a hydrated state.
Test, Monitor and Track
While each of these tests on their own are beneficial in their own right, combining multiple tests is the best method of determining hydration status and gaining a better understanding of individual sweat rates, sweat-salt ratios and fluid consumption requirements.
As well as workplace hydration testing, effective heat stress management programs also include employee training, toolbox talks, and fluid consumption guidelines.
Leightons implemented these measures along with supplying workers with THORZT as part of its award-winning hydration compliance program that commenced in July 2012 at the Australia Pacific LNG Project. Nearly two years after the program commenced, Leightons had not dealt with a single heat stress related incident.
For more information on hydration in the workplace see the White Paper here.