5 Dehydration Risks in Demanding Work Environments

Reviewed by our Expert Panel

5 March 2024

In physically demanding work environments, dehydration may pose multifaceted risks, from heat-related illnesses, injuries to poor cognitive functioning. In this blog, we’ll delve into the risks it poses for these workers (i.e., emergency services, tradies, industrial workers, and miners) and discuss hydration solutions to prevent this — with SAFETY by PREPD a major lifeline!

5 Dehydration Risks in Demanding Work Environments

1. Heat-Related Illnesses

Firstly, dehydration, combined with high temperatures (both environment & body), creates a hazardous setting for workers by increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses. Specifically, heat rash and heat stroke.

Heat rash manifests as irritated skin caused by blocked sweat ducts. While non life-threatening, it can cause discomfort (i.e., itching or burning), especially when wearing heavy-duty uniforms for prolonged periods. More concerningly, however, heat stroke (marked by a core body temperature exceeding 40°C) may cause the following symptoms (Hunt, Parker & Stewart 2013):

  • Severe neurological disturbances (ie., cognitive disfunction, poor focus & coordination)
  • Flushed skin
  • Headaches
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Organ failure (in extreme cases).

Given the rapid onset of life-threatening symptoms, monitoring your water intake, and replacing fluids is crucial when working in a hot, or rapid-paced environment that may cause your body to over-heat (i.e., emergency situations). 

Emergency worker sweating

2. Heart Problems

Dehydration also places significant strain on the cardiovascular system, prompting the heart to pump blood harder to ensure it circulates properly, and maintains your core body temperature (Boonruska et al. 2020). Concerningly, combined with extended periods in hot or demanding work environments, this can substantially elevate the risk of tachycardia, heart attacks, and heart failure (Harvard Health 2019).

In studies, it has been identified that workers suffering from dehydration have recorded increased heart rates and symptoms of dizziness and chest discomfort (Polkinghorne et al. 2013). Noting these warning signs, it's essential for workers exposed to demanding conditions to regularly record their heart rate, and maintain their fluid intake – to mitigate potential risks.

3. Injuries

The risk of injuries is also heightened in hot or demanding workplaces, where access to adequate hydration is limited (Pogacar et al. 2018). This results from dehydration-induced symptoms including fatigue, muscle cramping, reduced alertness, and impaired coordination (Boonruska et al. 2020; Pogacar et al. 2018), which can compromise a worker’s ability to perform tasks safely and effectively. For example, studies (Jones 2019) show that miners/manufacturers commonly suffer from the following injuries:

  • Sprains/strains (69%)
  • Fractures (68%)
  • Lacerations (37%)
  • Crushing (34%).

Dehydration can exacerbate the risk of these injuries by impairing a workers’ ability to operate machinery safely, maintain focus, or assess task requirements accurately. For example, while workplaces train employees on how to properly operate machinery, dehydrated workers suffering from poor concentration and alertness might unknowingly place their hands/arms in a dangerous area, resulting in severe injuries.

Likewise, a paramedic assisting a patient into an ambulance might lose their coordination, tripping over or dropping something. Not only could this injure themselves, but may also pose serious consequences for patients in their care. 

Injured worker

4. Costly Mistakes

Beyond physical affects, dehydration adversely impacts cognitive functions such as psychomotor skills, memory, and focus – increasing the likelihood of costly mistakes and accidents. This may include:

  • Breakages (to both products and machinery)
  • Errors or oversights (i.e., construction & medical calculations)

Consequently, in the long run, this may contribute to production disruptions, delays, heavy financial losses, or even medical consequences!

5. Productivity Decline

Lastly, inadequate hydration not only impacts your physical health, but also productivity. Headaches, fatigue, impaired mental status, and lack of motivation are common consequences of dehydration (Boonruska et al. 2020; Hunt 2011; Nerbass et al. 2019), hindering workers’ efficiency and morale. As they struggle to cope with these symptoms (including potentially hot environments), their ability to perform tasks will diminish, leading to decreased overall output and productivity. Returning to point 3, consequently, this will also result in potential disruptions, and delays!

5. Hydration Tips

The risks associated with dehydration for workers in demanding environments demonstrate the critical importance of maintaining proper hydration levels. To prevent this, consider the following hydration tips:

  • 1) Drink Water Regularly – Pack a drink bottle and aim to sip water consistently throughout your shift, rather than waiting until you feel thirsty. When wearing all the required PPE in challenging conditions, workers can lose up to 2.25 litres of fluid per hour. As such, it’s critical to frequently replace this fluid!
  • 2) Electrolyte Balance – In addition to water, replenish electrolytes lost through sweat by consuming electrolyte-rich beverages or snacks (i.e., SAFETY by PREPD or electrolyte tablets). Maintaining proper electrolyte balance is crucial for preventing cramping, fatigue, and other symptoms of dehydration.
  • 3) Take Breaks – Where possible, aim to take a short break from work in a shaded area and replenish your fluids. Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight during peak heat hours and prioritize rest and hydration during breaks to optimize performance and minimize heat-related risks. This will help your body cool down and ease your muscles.
  • 4) Monitor Urine Colour - Keep an eye on the colour of your urine as an indicator of hydration status. Pale yellow or clear urine suggests adequate hydration, while dark yellow or amber-coloured urine may indicate dehydration. If you notice yourself becoming dehydrated, increase your water intake throughout the day. 
  • 5) Precooling Strategies - Prior to starting your shift, utilize precooling techniques to lower your core body temperature and reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses. This can include drinking chilled beverages, applying cool towels to the skin, or spending time in air-conditioned areas before heading into hot or challenging work environments.

SAFETY BY PREPD: Workplace Hydration Solution

SAFETY by PREPD is the BEST solution to maintaining hydration in the workplace! Available in 2 smoothie-flavours, SAFETY has been scientifically-formulated to:

  • Decrease fatigue & maintain alertness
  • Boost your hydration
  • Enhance concentration & decision-making
  • Increase focus. 

Trust SAFETY today to stay alert & energised throughout the day. Enquire here 

Final Thoughts

The dangers linked with dehydration highlight the necessity of sustaining optimal hydration levels in demanding work environments. Workers must prioritise their hydration, ensuring they have access to adequate fluids to safeguard their own health and well-being, and prevent disruptions in the workplace. 


Want to stay energised and focused at work? Try SAFETY by PREPD today!