Written by Darin Dillow – CEO of Sword Performance, who is the hydration partner of Arbill.
Published in the Journal of Bioinformatics and Biosciences
Hot climates and the corollary heat stress injuries and incidents have always existed in the United States in some form and have presented themselves as a problem within workplaces across the country.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has several standards but none that specifically target the reduction of heat stress injuries. In September 2021, the current administration recognized the need for better worker protections in these scenarios and has proposed new initiatives to address the problem. This article examines the recent initiative and considers whether it reaches far enough to address the issue of heat stress within the workplace fully.
Doing something for employees is better than doing nothing at all. But do we truly know when we are helping the employees stay safe while on the job? For years, employers have told workers to drink water to stay hydrated, and that guidance is well-intentioned and can help, but it doesn't go far enough to fully protect workers from heat stress injuries. In September 2021, the White House issued a statement that read in part, “New initiatives at OSHA and across agencies will enhance workplace safety, build local resilience, and address disproportionate heat impacts”(White House Press Secretary, 2021). While this statement and further guidance help bring awareness to the current problem, more specific direction and accompanying enforcement activities are needed for these efforts to amount to change. The crux of the new proposed standard is, in short, water, rest, and shade. The proposed new standard is taken directly from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard which has had some of the highest heat stress cases and fatality rates in the United States in recent years. If the new proposed standard doesn't offer added protections, heat stress injuries and fatalities will continue to occur. While water, rest, and shade help address heat stress, they cannot act alone as the human body needs replenishment in a more robust form than water alone. While workers in the United States are protected from all types of external threats of injuries, are they being truly protected for the internal threats. Hard hats, steel toe boots, fall harnesses, and safety glasses are just a few examples of external protective equipment. This study concentrates on how to fully protect workers from the inside out.
UNDERSTANDING THE NEED BEYOND WATER
Consuming water to fight dehydration is and always will provide some degree of benefit. According to an article published by the U.S. Geological Surveys, up to sixty percent of the human body is water (U.S. Geological Surveys Group Water Science School, 2019). Further, the report states that the average male needs to consume nearly three liters of water each day. In comparison, the average female needs to consume an average of two liters per day to replenish loss from normal functions and activities. Therefore, water is an absolute necessity and should not be ignored in the workplace.
The concern is when humans pass the threshold of regular activity. That is, once they exert more energy than they would in a normal routine, the body temperature begins to rise, and dehydration becomes a greater risk.
Water does not offer the essential minerals that are required to quickly rehydrate a worker. Electrolytes are needed in addition to water to help the human physiology maintain a state of Euhydration. As an employee begins to sweat, loss of water occurs. Accompanying this loss of water is also a loss of crucial electrolytes that the body needs to function correctly. One of the most noticeable electrolytes lost during the natural cool-down process is sodium. A study published in the journal Temperature states that the sweat flow rate must be considered when determining sodium loss (L.B., 2019).
Have a Safe Day!