Water at Work – Part I

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Water at Work – Part I

While much has been written recently about the adverse effects of driver dehydration, the importance of proper hydration, regardless of context or industry, has been proven time and again.

In 2007 the Royal College of Nursing (as part of their Nutrition Now campaign) and the National Patient Safety Agency published a Hydration Best Practice Toolkit. The aim of the toolkit was to better educate nurses, healthcare workers, caterers and other service providers about the necessity of good hydration and the benefits of drinking enough water. Of the many fact-sheets included in the toolkit, one is of particular pertinence, Water in the Workplace, because as anyone in management will know, increasing productivity is a KPI in any business. In this, Part I of a two-part blog series, we will examine the fact-sheet and the impact of dehydration in the workplace.

Statistics from 2004 show that ‘illness absence costs UK employers £12b a year; with 168 million workings days lost. Good hydration contributes to workers’ health and safety. Even mild levels of dehydration adversely affect both physical and mental performance, but these effects can be made worse by the physical demands of the job’ – case in point with driver dehydration, where easy access to fluids and toilet facilities is often limited.

So what exactly constitutes good hydration? How much we should be drinking each day depends on a number of factors, and while there’s no absolute recommendation, there is an ideal range – men should be consuming from 1.2 litres to 3 litres and women from 1.2 litres to 2.2 litres. Dehydration is defined as a 1 percent or more loss of body weight; we typically experience thirst anywhere between dehydration levels of 0.8 to 2 percent, which means that by the time we feel thirsty we’re often already dehydrated, so thirst is not the best indicator to go by. Instead, we should be sipping water throughout the day to ensure we remain properly hydrated.

According to the fact-sheet, these are some of the early signs of dehydration:

Light-headedness, dizziness, tiredness, irritability, headache, sunken features (particularly the eyes), flushed skin, heat intolerance, dry mouth, throat and eyes, and skin that is loose and lacks elasticity. There may be a burning sensation in the stomach, urine output will be reduced, and may appear darker than usual.

While we mainly lose water from our bodies as urine, we also lose it through evaporation from our lungs and skin when we breathe and sweat; and a small amount is lost in faeces. Environmental factors and activity levels all affect how much water we lose in a day and our body is only efficient at restoring the water balance if we replenish the lost fluid. The importance of proper hydration cannot be underestimated, and in Part II of this two-part blog series, we will examine the health and performance benefits of drinking enough water each day to combat the potentially dangerous side-effects of driver dehydration.

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