The second part of the heat stress webinar focused on hydration techniques and the importance of keeping your workers well-watered and full of electrolytes.
Bubba Wolford, hydration expert and director of training and corporate development with Sqwincher, weighed in on the differences between personal protective equipment (PPE) and sports drinks when it comes to replenishing water and electrolytes.
“With a lot of the PPE out there, thinking about fall protection for example, does one size fit all?” Wolford asked. “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have federal regulations mandating electrolyte usage.”
Wolford says when creating their hydration health and safety standards, Sqwincher abides by the same OSHA recommendations present in their general duty clause, which lists the following:
- Engineering controls: Air conditioning and ventilation
- Work practices: Work/rest cycles and drinking water often
- Training: Provide information that aid in proper hydration practices
- Symptoms: Know the warning signs of dehydration
The signs of dehydration
The human body is made up of approximately 60-70 percent water, which makes staying hydrated even more imperative. By staying well-hydrated, toxins are able to leave the body regularly, nutrients are carried throughout the body and body temperature is more easily regulated.
“If you look at the beverage industry and all of the caffeinated, high sugar, high carbonation, high energy drinks, all those kinds of things do not lend and do not count when we’re measuring the actual water without anything else in it,” Wolford said. “It’s important that we teach that and help our workforce understand that they have to have water first.”
Wolford notes that 75 percent of people in the United States are chronically dehydrated, and the question he hears frequently in the workforce is how do you know how much water to drink?
For the average man ingesting around 2,900 calories a day, Wolford recommends drinking 12 8 ounce cups of water a day, which equals 96 ounces. For the average woman ingesting around 1,900 calories on average, he recommends drinking nine 8 ounce cups of water, which equals 72 ounces. OSHA recommends drinking one cup of water every 20 minutes when working in an area with a temperature of 80 degrees or higher.
While some may believe that water on its own is sufficient to hydrate workers, Wolford stresses the importance of adding in electrolytes as well.
“(Electrolytes are) not mandated, however, water is not enough,” he said. “This is a physiological fact. When you perspire, you’re losing the minerals which maintain a balance in your body so that you don’t cramp. When you cramp, you are not in balance.”
Wolford notes that having the supplementary presence of electrolytes brings the body’s amount of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium minerals found in muscles back into balance, as natural water does not contain electrolytes. According to Wolford, having leg cramps is one of the first signals that the body is dehydrated.
“If somebody cramps on the football field, usually it’s not a life or death situation,” he said. “In our case, whether they’re on heavy equipment, working with cutting tools, whatever, it can be absolutely catastrophic.”
Understanding the heat
No matter where your landscaping company is located in the country, knowing and understanding the temperature of your area is crucial.
Whether you deal with dry heat or ample amounts of humidity, the proper hydration measures need to be taken to ensure each crew member is safe and cared for.
Wolford says understanding and being able to properly read a heat index can potentially save lives and keep you from underestimating the temperature before you begin working.
“This can be the key to keeping your people safe when the real indication of the threshold is exposed after making the conversion,” he said.
Wolford stresses the importance of understanding temperature thresholds as well. For instance, at 90-100 degrees, the human body is subject to possible sunstroke, heat cramps and heat exhaustion when engaged in physical activity and prolonged exposure.
When exposed to temperatures between 101 and 129, the human body is subject to probable sunstroke, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion when engaged in physical activity and prolonged exposure. When faced with degrees of 130 or higher, heat and sunstroke are imminent.
While drinking water and electrolytes are mandatory for working in the heat, Wolford notes that fluid retention is what needs to happen in order to stave off dehydration.
“The big thing we hear a lot of times is absorption; everybody wants to know about the absorption of the electrolyte product or water,” Wolford said. “That’s important, however, fluid retention is more important to keep the body functioning at a proper level.”
When the body does not retain fluids, the results can lead to:
- Impaired performance (present at 2 percent fluid loss)
- Muscular function and capacity declines (present at 4 percent fluid loss)
- Heat exhaustion (present at 6 percent fluid loss)
- Hallucinations (present at 8 percent fluid loss)
- Circulatory collapse and heat stroke (present at 10 percent fluid loss)
“Just 2 percent fluid loss can start affecting the body and impairing performance,” he said. “This shows that it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, we can become the hazard to the other people working (with us).”
Wolford highly recommends the buddy system when it comes to the worksite and keeping each other accountable with hydration. He also recommends taking an interest in the well-being of each of your employees.
Take note of the physical conditions and ages of your workers and understand that each age group and each individual’s stage of physical ability will need certain types of attention. Wolford recommends limiting the number of diuretics and non-nutritional food and beverage options available in the workplace and to take note of employees who may have an abundance of such items in their lifestyle.
“We really want (employees) to limit (diuretics) and we want to limit these products are our facilities,” he said. “Really being aware of what we’re providing and what it could do is huge.”