Hydration in the Workplace

Hydration drink

Need for Fluids & Electrolytes

The human body is made up of nearly 60% water (brain tissue is 85% water). Water is excreted from the body in a variety of ways, including urinating, sweating and from the lungs when breathing. The body needs water to function correctly; to regulate temperature, protect tissue and joints, remove waste, aid digestion and nourish the brain.

Electrolytes control the osmosis or movement of water between body compartments and they help maintain the acid-base balance required for normal cellular activities. Electrolytes are necessary for most bodily functions, especially muscular and nerve performance. Electrolytes are solutions of acids, bases or salts, commonly made up of:

  • Sodium

  • Potassium

  • Calcium

  • Magnesium

  • Chloride

  • Bicarbonate

  • Phosphate

  • Sulphate

The body depends on electrolytes to perform vital functions by sending electronic signals to the nerves that activate the muscles to perform the mechanical functions of the body. These functions allow the body to perform general day to day tasks efficiently and safely. Loss of fluids and electrolytes can cause dehydration, heat stress, and fatigue (DHF) impacting the ability to perform tasks and think clearly. This can be hazardous to the affected person, others and the working environment.

Dry clay

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration is the term used to describe an instance where the body has an inadequate level of water and electrolytes to function correctly. It occurs when the fluid intake negatively corresponds to the fluid loss through functions such as sweating and urinating. Dehydration can range from mild to severe, but common symptoms are:

  • Dry mouth

  • Decreased urine output

  • Decreased sweating

  • Weakness

  • Light headedness

  • Muscle cramps

  • Nausea and/or vomiting

Dehydration is more likely to occur in situations where the body excretes fluids at a higher rate than usual, such as excessive sweating in high temperature environments. Australia can be a hot, dry or humid country and can expose the body to extreme conditions and temperatures. This is a major cause of dehydration, which increases the risk of personal injury through poor judgment and loss of physical ability when working, resulting in reduced productivity.

Do not rely on thirst to identify when you are dehydrated. Use the urine chart below to help monitor your level of hydration.


Reduce the risk of Dehydration

The human body needs water to maintain blood volume, blood pressure and the normal function of other bodily fluids. Dehydration occurs when water and salts are lost from the body, often due to sweat and heat exposure.

The most effective way to combat dehydration is taking the necessary steps to prevent it;

  • DRINK fluids regularly, BEFORE getting thirsty (250ml every 15-20 min)

  • AVOID caffeinated and high sugar energy drinks

  • AVOID the sun during the middle of the day

  • WEAR sunscreen and a hat and seek shade

  • DRESS in thin, loose clothing to allow airflow

Know the Signs of Dehydration

There are several stages of dehydration;

Mild Dehydration

  • Thirst

  • Reduced appetite

  • Skin flushing

  • Darker coloured urine (see chart)

  • Mouth dryness

  • Fatigue and dizziness

  • Mild headaches

  • Chills

Mid Level Dehydration

  • Decreased sweating and urination

  • Increased heart rate, sweat & body temp

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Cramping of the muscles

  • Intense headaches

  • Nausea and constipation

  • Tingling and numbness

Severe Dehydration

  • Muscle spasms & chest pains

  • Vomiting

  • Rapid pulse

  • Dim vision/temporary blindness

  • Painful/low volume urination

  • Confusion

  • Respiratory depression

  • Neuromuscular seizures

  • Unconsciousness

Monitor Your Hydration Levels

Every wondered how to tell how hydrated you are? One of the most simple ways to tell whether your body needs re-hydrating is to assess the colour of your urine, see our example below.

Urine Hydration Chart

ATOM Safety recommends having a urine hydration chart in your work site's toilets for employees to reference. Download ATOM Safety's Urine Hydration Chart.

This information is to be used as a guide only. For more in-depth information consult a health professional.

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