10 Safety Tips to Keep Workers Production Maximised when working in the heat
Working in the hot Australian summer can be a matter of life and death for some workers. Here are 10 simple steps which can be taken to reduce the risk of dehydration and heat stress whilst maximising your workforce productivity. The highest risk workers are those that are performing physically demanding labour outdoors or indoor workers that are exposed to high temperatures with poor ventilation. This includes miners, construction workers, farmers, factory workers, warehouse workers and firefighters to name but a few. Whilst this article is based on the workers at the greatest risk, these principles also apply to everyone from athletes, to office workers to school students.
The main message is GET HYDRATED and keep your body in an optimum state.
1. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start hydrating your body.
For those workers that are working in a physically demanding heat environment, you should be drinking approx. 250 ml every 15-20 mins. A simple technique to make this easy is to carry a water bottle or Hydration Backpack. It is refreshing to see a lot of students and office workers have a water bottle on their desk to keep hydrated. This also enhances productivity as it reduces their number of trips to the water cooler, and water cooler gatherings.
2. Monitor your No 1’s.Sorry to be crass but you want this as pure as the driven snow. Here is a link to a urine colour chart where your team members can assess their own level of hydration. Once it is monitored then your team can manage to enhance their hydration level.
If you are an athlete, you know that the more you prepare for the event the better you will perform. Pre-hydration works in the same way, so get your body ready for your work day where you will be losing fluids through sweat. Studies show that over 50% of Australian Workers show up to work dehydrated.
4. Drink Electrolyte drinks.
Can be used before, after and during activity. Heavy sweat rates when working in the heat can cause substantial electrolyte losses. An electrolyte drink will replenish lost electrolytes quickly and keep you performing at your peak. Choose a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink (low GI) for sustained energy release, or sugar free electrolyte drink for carb-free electrolyte replenishment.
5. Limit Caffeine & Alcohol.
Avoid these great dehyraters or ensure you increase your water intake to counter the dehydration effects of Caffeine. Avoid consuming caffeine before and during the shift (this includes coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks). Caffeine has a diuretic effect which increases water loss and contributes to dehydration. Are your workers coming to work dehydrated and then getting a coffee first thing? Get them to reach for their water bottle.
6. Don’t drink ice cold water.
Cold water causes the blood vessels in the stomach to constrict, reducing the rate of fluid absorption. Cool water is absorbed faster, which is important to keep you hydrated when working in the heat.
7. Take Adequate meal breaks.
Take regular adequate meal breaks which gives your core body temperature time to cool down whilst gaining vital fluids from your healthy food. Food contains water and is one of the primary means by which we replace lost fluids on a daily basis. Eating food also helps to stimulate the thirst response, causing you to drink more. Ensure your diet includes lots of leafy greens, fresh fruit and nuts to help replenish the electrolytes lost through sweat. Consider how much fluids your body receives from your lunch. Eg. There is more water in lettuce than a meat pie.
8. Schedule work the smart way.
Use all of the smarts in your arsenal to minimise the risks of heat illnesses. Some ideas include scheduling the heaviest/hottest/most physical tasks for the coolest parts of the day, schedule breaks around peak heat times, can work be done in a shade zone at a certain time of day, job sharing and ensuring suitable break times for the conditions.
9. Slip Slop Slap.
When you’re sweating it out for long hours out in the melting sun, you need to ensure your sunscreen is water resistant, long lasting and covers you with the highest possible levels of UV protection. ProBloc SPF 50+ sunscreen meets all of these requirements and is designed specifically for Australian industrial workers.
10. Dress Appropriately & Accessorise.
Your workers should be aware that there are a number of alternatives to maximise their performance and protect them from heat illness. Lightweight workwear made from organic materials such as cotton and organic fibres breath better and promote airflow whereas synthetic fibres trap heat, increasing the likelihood of heat stress. If you work all day in the heat, try wearing a cooling vest above your regular clothing. Originally developed for professional athletes, cooling vests are becoming increasing popular among industrial workers to help regulate their core temperate when performing physically demanding work in the heat. Cooling Vests can be used prior to, during or after any activity where the body is exposed to significant heat pressures.