As temperatures drop and snow begins to blanket many parts of the US, safety awareness naturally turns towards keeping warm and away from hydration. That's been true for ORR Safety as we just recently examined the importance of layering your clothing in the winter. However, when you combine those recommendations with the fact that winter brings with it strenuous activities like shoveling snow and makes normal work in outdoor jobsites all the more difficult, perspiration becomes a major concern and hydration becomes a major element of cold weather safety.
How much should you drink? Studies have shown even professional athletes underestimate their own total amount of sweat lost during energy-spending activities by as much as 46%. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces. For example, if someone weighs 130 pounds then they should drink no less than 65 ounces of water in a day. If you are performing actions which elevate perspiration, this amount should be increased; the more strenuous the activity, the higher the increase.
Another challenge in calculating how much water you need is that cold weather makes people less thirsty. Workers might not realize they are not consuming enough liquids without that thirst trigger. While water is the best liquid to replenish the loss of sweat, hot green tea makes a soothing alternative to increase intake on a frosty winter morning.
Even with robust policies and training programs, there may be times when someone becomes dangerously dehydrated. Watch for the following signs and symptoms:
- Dry and sticky mouth
- Reduced urine output
- Dry skin
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
In extreme cases:
- Low blood pressure
- Sunken eyes
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Tearless crying
- Delirium or unconsciousness (Only in the most severe cases)
For a mild to moderate case of dehydration, the afflicted person should drink more fluids (i.e. water or sports drinks). For severe cases, immediate medical attention should be obtained.
A combination of environmental and biological factors make dehydration a very serious concern during winter weather conditions. With some planning and active fluid intake tracking, you and your company can prevent serious injury. If you need help figuring out what rate of consumption is best for your team or if you have any other questions, ORR Safety experts are available to provide assistance. Worker safety is our passion all year-round and we're committed to partnering with you to achieve your safety goals.