Heat Stress in The Workplace, What are the Solutions?

We spend a lot of time discussing hydration in athletes and ensuring they avoid dehydration during exercise.  However, we know that heat stress
in workers is a significant problem, resulting in reduced work capacity, poor concentration and an increased risk of illness and injury.

Heat stress, dehydration and the associated loss of productivity comes at a cost of $6.9 billion per year to Australian companies.  We know that average outdoor or underground worker can sweat 4-5L in a 10 hours shift, and losses of up to 8-10L can be common. It is therefore essential to maintain hydration in workers to ensure the health, safety and productivity of our at-risk work forces. 

What is heat stress?

Heat stress is a particularly high-risk illness for outdoor workers in Australia as they can endure extremely harsh environmental conditions. Heat stress at work can range from a simple heat rash to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, headaches, nausea and even heat stroke.  Workers at greater risk of heat stress include those who are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat.

Who is at risk?

Around 25% of our Australian workforce are exposed to the risk of heat stress as they work in outdoor conditions. Underground workers also face extreme environmental conditions that can put them at risk of dehydration and heat stress.  We know that to try and keep cool, the body will produce sweat that can then evaporate off the skin. It is this loss of fluid and electrolytes that puts workers at risk. 

Why do workers require electrolytes?

Electrolytes are critical for optimising both mental and physical performance. These essential minerals regulate nerve and muscle function, maintain fluid balance in the body, help to produce energy and support strong bones. As we work, exercise and sweat, electrolytes are lost from the body. Dehydration and electrolyte loss can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, poor decision making and impaired coordination, any of which can have a negative impact on worker’s ability to perform at their best.

We know that workers regularly overestimate their capacity to perform effectively in the heat. There is a strong link between even mild dehydration and reduced productivity and an increased risk of injury and illness.

What are the recommendations to manage heat-stress in the workplace?

  1. Start Slow: Gradually increase the time spent in hot environmental conditions over 7-14 days 
  2. Rotate: It is recommended for high risk workers to be rotated regularly to reduce environmental exposure. Allow rescheduling of personnel and allocate breaks during the day to cool down. 
  3. Dress Appropriately: Breathable, light coloured and loose fitting clothing is recommended where appropriate to the work. Be aware that protective clothing or PPE can actually increase a worker’s risk of heat exposure. 
  4. Weather: Be prepared for the weather forecast and take the necessary precautions.
  5. Hydrate:  Workers are recommended to drink at least 200ml of fluid every 20 minutes to hydrate.  Including a highly palatable and sugar-free electrolyte solution is critical to maintaining electrolyte levels and therefore productivity and performance in the workplace. Bindilyte is designed for Australian workers and is made in Australia to hydrate workers.

“ADEQUATE HYDRATION IS THE KEY SOLUTION TO KEEPING WORKERS SAFE IN THE HARSHEST OF ENVIRONMENTS AND MAINTAINING THEIR PRODUCTIVITY”

Hydration is key to productivity and performance in the workplace. By consuming a low-sugar, healthy and palatable rehydration solution, workers can maintain their hydration and productivity and general health and well-being as well.

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