Moving into summer brings a whole lot of safety hazards for workers in the oilfields of Texas. While exposure to excessive heat can cause illnesses such as heatstroke, it can also lead to dehydration. Although dehydration, as such, is not an illness, it is a condition that could impair your physical and mental performance.

Your body requires water to flush out toxins and help with digestion. Proper hydration also aids the movements of your eyes and joints. Contrary to what most people think, thirst is not the first sign of dehydration. When you work in a hot and humid environment, your body will rapidly lose fluids, and if you do not replace those fluids, dehydration may follow.

How does dehydration affect workers?

While even mild dehydration can significantly decrease energy levels and slow down production, studies have revealed that the adverse impact mild dehydration can have on physical and cognitive abilities can cause tragic accidents. If your job requires good hand-eye coordination, precision and concentration, dehydration could jeopardize your ability to focus. Another study tested driving abilities of dehydrated individuals, and results indicated the same level of impairment as drivers under the influence of alcohol.

Contributing factors to dehydration

If you understand heat stress and dehydration and how they affect your health, you can learn how to prevent it. The following factors can contribute to dehydration:

  • Physical activity: When your activities are strenuous, heavy breathing and excessive sweating will cause rapid loss of fluids.
  • Environment: Although you will be vulnerable while working outside in the sun, heat and humidity indoors and in confined workspaces can also be contributing factors.
  • Diet: Surprisingly, drinking coffee, alcohol and soda can bring on dehydration rather than prevent it. It requires extra hard work for your body to process sweetened drinks, and alcohol and coffee cause more frequent urinating — draining your bodily fluids.
  • Health: Any illness that might cause diarrhea and vomiting can cause rapid loss of fluids, and if you have diabetes, frequent urination can make you more vulnerable.

Look out for these symptoms

By the time you feel thirsty, you will already be in the initial stages of dehydration. Look out for any of the following signs to catch it before it affects your physical and cognitive functions:

  • Excessive sweating: Although not a symptom of dehydration, heavy sweating can alert you to the fact that you are rapidly losing fluids and need to replenish it.
  • Headaches: This is an early sign and often goes with light-headedness and tiredness. A quick remedy is a glass of water.
  • Lack of concentration: Your brain needs proper hydration to function adequately, without which you might experience short-term memory problems and the inability to focus and concentrate.
  • Urine color: The darker the shade of your urine, the higher the need for water replenishment.
  • Food cravings: Strangely, dehydration can prevent proper functioning of your organs. For example, your liver will struggle with glycogen production, and this can cause food cravings.
  • Bad breath: This is a relatively unknown symptom of dehydration that develops when your body cannot produce enough saliva to prevent bacterial growth in your mouth.

Do not rely on your employer to keep you hydrated

Although employers are responsible for the health and safety of employees, many of them have other priorities. However, if you know the risks of dehydration and the telltale signs of it, you could make sure you carry a refillable water bottle with you. Taking frequent water breaks can keep you hydrated.

However, if dehydration caused a loss of focus that led to an on-the-job injury, you might be entitled to claim workers’ compensation benefits. Resources are available to provide the necessary legal guidance and support with the navigation of benefits claims through the Texas workers’ compensation program.