Quick Tips: Staying Hydrated While Working

May 1, 2002
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By Gavin McLachlan

Hydration experts from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommend drinking 5-7 oz. of fluid every 15-20 minutes–not just during rest breaks–to stay sufficiently hydrated and maintain a safe core body temperature. This puts less strain on the cardiovascular system and can lead to fewer heat-related illnesses and injuries.

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Other tips for keeping workers hydrated and healthy include:

  • Drink before, during, and after physical labor to replace body fluid lost from sweating.
  • Anticipate conditions that will increase the need for water, including high temperature, humidity, protective clothing, and difficulty of work.
  • By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already about 2% dehydrated. And once you’re dehydrated, it’s difficult to make up for that lost hydration.
  • Keep individual containers of cool, clean water within easy reach at all times. (Note: NIOSH recommends prohibiting communal drinking containers in workplace settings, and the ACGIH recommends placing water close enough to the worker so that he or she can reach it without abandoning the work area.)
  • Drink cool water, which is absorbed more quickly by the body and easier to drink than warm or very cold fluids. NIOSH and the ACGIH recommend drinking water that’s 50-59ºF (10-15ºC).
  • Try carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks to help avoid the heat cramps that can occur up to several hours after working.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, or soda, which act as diuretics, further depleting the body of fluid. Never drink alcohol while working.
  • Even sedentary workers should drink eight 8-oz. servings of water every day.
–Gavin McLachlan is the director of the Industrial Safety Division at CamelBak Products Inc.