Cool Places to Work
As the weather heats up, so too do your employees. One of the most important things to keep workers safe, healthy, and productive in warm weather is to ensure they stay hydrated. The question is how best to do this in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and still reach the sustainability goals you announced to your staff, customers, and other stakeholders. Luckily, you have a few options. But first, let’s look at the dangers of worker dehydration.
A Balancing Act
The human body is 60% water, and our brains are approximately 85% water. We need water to maintain our blood volume and pressure and to keep our bodies functioning properly. We also need electrolytes. Sodium, potassium, chloride, and other electrolytes are minerals in your blood, urine, tissues, and other body fluids that maintain water balance in your body. Without them, you become dehydrated.
The earliest stages of dehydration have no symptoms, so they are hard to detect. Signs of mild or moderate dehydration can include:
- Extreme thirst
- Muscle cramps
- Dizziness/ lightheadedness
- Parched mouth and/or tongue
- Rapid pulse
- Dark yellow urine
- Little or no urination
- Sunken eyes
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Absence of tears
- Irrational behavior
Severe dehydration can lead to significant health complications, including seizures, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, shock, coma, and even death.
Raising the Risk
Dehydration is most likely to occur in warmer weather. When temperatures rise, our bodies try to cool off by sweating. Physical exertion—even walking—in warm temperatures significantly increases the chance of becoming dehydrated. Symptoms associated with even mild dehydration can lead to lost productivity and increased employee absenteeism. Then there are the dangers for workers associated with operating machinery or other equipment in a dehydrated state, leading to injury, worker’s compensation claims, and even lawsuits. Severe dehydration can require fluids to be administered through an IV, which OSHA considers medical treatment, and therefore is a recordable event.
With so much at stake, employers must remain vigilant in preventing dehydration in the workplace.
Drinking water before beginning to feel thirsty can help ward off dehydration. However, for workers exerting themselves in warm weather, water may not be enough. Setting up “hydration stations” with easily accessible sports drinks that contain electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Sqwincher, and encouraging all workers to take regular breaks to drink up is advisable. Some companies schedule mandatory hydration breaks.
Placing hydration charts in restrooms is another excellent way to allow crew members to self-evaluate their hydration levels by checking the color of their urine and taking corrective steps to hydrate when necessary. Top hydrating product distributors offer hydration charts free or at a minimal cost.
However, the pandemic has complicated the question of how to safely get workers the liquids they need.
Of Personal Note
During the worst phases of the pandemic, many employees turned to personal-size plastic bottles for their hydrating container of choice. While understandable at the time, the use of personal-size plastic bottles is not an optimal solution, especially for larger workforces, for several reasons:
Safety. Consider all the handling (and sets of hands) and environments that individual prefilled plastic bottles pass through during manufacturing, transporting, storing, cooling, and, finally, drinking. That’s a lot of opportunities for potential pathogens to stick.
Hydration. Your average personal bottle holds 12 to 16.9 ounces—not enough to keep most individuals hydrated, especially workers who are doing physical labor or working in extreme temperatures. Yet many employees consider “a whole bottle” adequate and/or resist going to get another one as often as they should.
Environment. We already know individual plastic bottles are detrimental to the environment. And while it is comforting to think these containers are recyclable, the reality is that only 9% of all plastic is recycled—a whopping 91% ends up in landfills. Some hydrating drinks, such as Gatorade, are available in aluminum cans, which are more easily recycled. Yet, they are not as sustainable as bulk concentrate packaging.
Productivity. Small bottles can prove disruptive, negatively impacting productivity. Studies show the average worker takes 23 minutes (and 15 seconds) to refocus after an interruption—such as going back to get another bottle of water.
Cost. Individual bottles are far more costly than bulk concentrate, and the expense can add up over time. Personal bottles also require a lot more storage space. Meanwhile, keeping them cold can quickly become impractical, if not impossible—especially for large companies with lots of workers and multiple shifts.
So if individual plastic bottles aren’t the answer, what is? Below are some suggestions for keeping your workforce and cool and hydrated and Mother Nature happy.
Concentrate on Concentrate
Buying an electrolyte-rich formula in bulk concentrate so that up to 6 gallons can be made at a time remains the safest, most sustainable, and affordable option. Bulk concentrate:
- Eliminates the greater risk of contamination associated with single-serve disposable plastic bottles
- Reduces plastic and packaging waste that ends up in landfills
- Lowers fuel, labor, docking, and other transportation costs
- Costs less per ounce than premade liquid options.
There are several safe modes of dispensing Gatorade, Sqwincher, or other hydrating drinks to workers from multiple gallon containers. Individual refillable bottles are an excellent option since only the owner uses the bottle. To assure all workers are equipped with a personal, refillable bottle, many companies take advantage of Gatorade and Sqwincher’s packs that include complimentary bottles for using their product in bulk for substantial savings.
Dispensers for individual recyclable cups are another option. Dispensers that allow users to remove only one cup at a time can be directly attached to multiple gallon containers, making them easy to transport together.
Whichever bulk dispensing method you choose, remember to follow these safety tips:
- Provide hand sanitizer at your hydrating station to encourage workers to clean their hands as often as they hydrate.
- Place disinfecting wipes next to the gallon containers for opening and closing the dispensing nozzle.
- Bulk concentrated should be prepared in a clean, disinfected area by an employee wearing proper personal protection equipment (PPE), including a mask and/or face shield and gloves.
- Encourage workers to use wider-mouthed refillable bottles that are easier to clean and wash them daily using an appropriate detergent and rinsing thoroughly with hot water.
Hydrating with Sqwincher Sqweeze Electrolyte Freezer Pops is also a great hydration option when a freezer is available, or top Sqwincher suppliers offer a freezer pop package that includes a free seven-cubic-foot freezer.
In addition to encouraging your workers to stay hydrated, it is essential to do all you can to keep them as cool as possible. For non-airconditioned workspaces, large, place portable fans or Portacool Evaporative Cooler fans in strategic places to allow for the best airflow. Provide cooling gear, such as towels, bandanas, hats, and vests, for employees working in high-temperature conditions.
Are you looking for supplies to keep your workers cool and your budget intact while minimizing your carbon and plastic footprint? HydrationDepot.com has you covered. Contact us at 866-380-5600 to place your order today. Your staff, your accountant, and Mother Earth will thank you!