FMs and management teams have a duty of care to staff and building users. In extreme heat such as we are experiencing right now, it’s vital to make sure people are as safe and comfortable as possible.
Providing a means of hydration is paramount. Other care measures include relaxing rules about uniforms and ensuring that the building is kept as cool as possible. Managers may also want to give people the choice of whether to work from home for those roles where that is possible.
As the Government and others have advised, hydration should be top of the list in extremely hot temperatures. This is one of the prime means of ensuring people are safe. Dehydration can occur quickly in high temperatures and can lead to a host of health problems.
People should also be encouraged to stay out of the mid-day sun unless their work requires that they are outside. If this is the case, adopting a Mediterranean approach and working flexible hours; starting much earlier, taking a break in the hottest part of the day, and resuming when the sun is less strong, can all be helpful where that is practical. Employers should also provide adequate supplies of sun-block for the duration of each shift for outdoor workers - construction workers and grounds-people, for instance.
The good news is that, unless dehydration is extreme, most people have the ability to rehydrate quickly once they notice symptoms. It’s not just during the day that hydration is important. During hot nights, lack of fluid can cause sleeplessness which in turn can lead to careless mistakes the following day due to heat-induced exhaustion. Maintaining good hydration levels throughout the day and evening, is important. In these extremes, that means drinking more than the average recommendation of 1.8 litres of fluid a day,
FMs can help by providing safe, sustainable means of hydration through water dispensers. When specifying your dispensers, it’s important to ensure they are WHA-Safe and provided by an accredited member of the Water Dispenser & Hydration Association.
There are five benefits of installing water dispensers:
Water dispensers are convenient because they can be placed just where you need them, at work, in public places or at home.
They deliver great-tasting water which is important in the heat as this encourages your team to drink more and keep up their hydration levels which means they will work at optimum levels. By using a WHA member, the water and machines will also be safe.
Water dispensers are good for the environment as they allow people to avoid the temptation of buying single use packaging. By encouraging building users to refill a glass or a bottle you could help not just the staff but assist your company in meeting its sustainability goals, too.
The fourth benefit of dispensers is that the temperature of the water will always be perfect and if you are refilling an insulated bottle the water will taste far better than the water bought in a plastic bottle which quickly warms up.
Finally, water is calorie-free: hydration that’s healthy and sugar-free helps overall health.
FMs might wish to provide advice on spotting the signs of dehydration. One of the simplest ways to assess hydration levels is to advise people to check the colour of their urine. Ideally, this should be pale lemon or pale straw-coloured. Anything darker means that the person needs to drink water. Here’s a simple measure for FMs to act responsibly: download and print this Water Dispenser and Hydration Association chart to display in the lavatories or email it to everyone in the team.
The reason you need to ensure that your dispensers are WHA-Safe is that WHA members are audited and undergo mandatory training for staff. If you need to procure water dispensers or wish to quickly check if your existing machines are provided by a WHA member, visit the Find a Member section of the WHA website.
The WHA is the only trade association for the sector and stands for quality, trust, and standards.
Phillipa has been General Manager of the WHA since its launch in 2020 and previously had 27 years’ experience in the water dispenser sector, having held a similar position with the British Water cooler Association. She is a member of the Institute of Association Leaders.