Don’t Forget to Hydrate in the Winter

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We all think about keeping our fluid intake up when we’re working hard, it’s hot outside and we’re sweating a lot, but we frequently forget all about this during the winter months, even though bundling up in layers to protect against the cold can still result in a fair bit of perspiration. Cold air tends to be dry air and that makes your body work harder to keep air in your lungs properly humidified.

And, of course, we all need to take in 2-3 litres of fluids per day to keep ourselves properly hydrated, regardless of anything else we’re doing or consuming.

Our bodies are made up of 60-70 percent water. Studies have shown that if a person is even one percent dehydrated, their productivity at work drops by about 12 percent, with clear signs of mood changes and energy levels dropping. At three-to-four percent dehydration, productivity can be reduced by 25-50 percent. And at 15 percent dehydration, you run the risk of actually dying, so it doesn’t take much to put you in danger.

The lack of productivity is due to two things. The first is that your body is becoming less physically capable of performing work due to the lack of fluids to transmit nutrients around your system.

The second reason is because a lack of fluids reduces your brain’s ability to transmit signals. As your body loses fluids, your brain does as well and without an adequate fluid solution to conduct electrical impulses, your brain becomes far less efficient. This reduces your ability to concentrate, slows your reaction time, and also leads to mistakes and incidents.

At three percent dehydration, your reaction time is the same as being at a 0.08 blood/alcohol level, which is over the Alberta provincial limit for driving. That makes you four to five times more likely to wind up having an incident than if you were properly hydrated. People who are dehydrated are also more likely to get sick and miss work, further reducing productivity while also putting other workers at risk of catching that disease.

So remember to drink lots of water or other fluids over the course of the day.

If you’re consuming something with a lot of caffeine, like coffee, you’ll need even more fluids as caffeine is a diuretic which flushes water out of your system. So try to limit your intake of coffee, cola beverages, or energy drinks which might actually be working against you.

Get yourself into the habit of drinking lots of water as you perform your daily chores and you’ll find yourself feeling more energized, more alert, more productive and safer.

Jim provides safety consulting services in the Lethbridge area and can be reached at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com

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References:

Hydration in the Workplace: Keeping Employees Hydrated Can Increase Productivity – http://www.aquaterracorp.ca/page.aspx?name=WorkplaceHydrationE#sthash.cj1rsNEq.dpuf

Employee Dehydration: Affecting Your Bottom Line? – http://bluelivingideas.com/2013/12/04/employee-dehydration-affecting-bottom-line/

How Heat Stress Affects Performance – http://ohsonline.com/articles/2010/05/01/how-heat-stress-affects-performance.aspx

Is Dehydration Affecting your Productivity? – http://worklifepeace.com/dehydration-affecting-productivity/

8 Tips for Hydrating in Cold Weather – http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/8-tips-for-hydrating-in-cold-weather

Article originally published in Buck Up! Magazine, Issue 3, Jan, 2015

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