DEHYDRATION: Be Aware, On the Ground & in the Air!

Submitted by Roger Cormier, Member of the National Safety Committee and Director of the Sydnay region, Nova Scotia.

With the warm weather fast approaching, keep thinking body hydration.

Whether you’re working, having fun with friend and family, on CASARA training or tasking, it’s important to stay hydrated. It’s important to stay hydrated whilst, driving, flying, spotting, navigating or undertaking other activities.

Dehydration will lead to fatigue, lack of concentration, making mistakes, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. (see the attached poster). Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can become very serious quickly, so stay hydrated and watch out for one another.

The brain represents 2% of the body’s weight and receives approximately 20% of the body’s blood circulation. In order to properly function, the brain must remain fully hydrated.

Make sure you drinking enough water prior to a CASARA exercise, during the exercise and after the exercise. On a hot day in a C-172, your body will need more water than normal, so make sure you bring water with you.

How can I prevent heat related illnesses?
(source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety)

If practical, workers in hot environments should be encouraged to set their own work and rest schedules.. Experienced workers can often judge heat strain and limit their exposure accordingly. Inexperienced workers may need special attention as they may continue to work beyond the point at which signs of heat strain appear. People are generally unable to notice their own heat stress related symptoms. Their survival depends on their coworkers’ ability to recognize these symptoms and seek timely first aid and medical help.

Salt and Fluid Supplements: A person working in a very hot environment loses water and salt through sweat. This loss should be compensated by water and salt intake. Fluid intake should equal fluid loss. On average, about one litre of water each hour may be required to replace the fluid loss. Plenty of cool (10-15°C) drinking water should be available on the job site and workers should be encouraged to drink water every 15 to 20 minutes even if they do not feel thirsty. Alcoholic drinks should NEVER be taken as alcohol dehydrates the body.

An acclimatized worker loses relatively little salt in their sweat and, therefore, the salt in the normal diet is usually sufficient to maintain the electrolyte balance in the body fluids. For unacclimatized workers who may sweat continuously and repeatedly, additional salt in the food may be used. Salt tablets are not recommended because the salt does not enter the body system as fast as water or other fluids. Too much salt can cause higher body temperatures, increased thirst and nausea. Workers on salt-restricted diets should discuss the need for supplementary salt with their doctor.

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Sport drinks, fruit juice, etc: Drinks specially designed to replace body fluids and electrolytes may be taken but for most people, they should be used in moderation. They may be of benefit for workers who have very physically active occupations but keep in mind they may add unnecessary sugar or salt to your diet. Fruit juice or sport and electrolyte drinks, diluted to half the strength with water, is an option. For most people, water is the most efficient fluid for re-hydration.

Emergency Action Plan: In extreme environments, an emergency plan is needed. The plan should include procedures for providing affected workers with first aid and medical care.

More information is available in our OSH Answers document Extreme Hot or Cold Temperature Conditions.

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