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May01

Mandatory Hydration

Could an employer make it mandatory that employees drink a certain amount of water to ensure hydration while working in high heat situations?

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ensures safe and healthful working conditions in the workplace through training and regulations.

OSHA requires potable water to be provided in all places of employment in amounts that are adequate to meet the health and personal needs of each employee. Potable water means water that is safe from toxins and meets the standard for drinking purposes set forth by state and/or municipality regulations. Additional amounts of cool drinking water should be provided to employees working in high heat situations.

In addition to providing cool drinking water, employers should encourage employees to actually drink it by informing them of the risk of working in high heat, providing the water in convenient and visible locations, and actively promoting the importance of staying hydrated.

OSHA regulations don’t prohibit an employer from mandating that employees drink a certain amount of water. But, such a mandate may backfire on your good intentions. How do you plan on determining the specific amount of water to be consumed? Water needs vary per individual. What violations would you impose on an employee who doesn’t drink the required amount? Would you really discipline/write up an employee who drinks an ounce less than what is required?

Instead of implementing a mandatory amount of water to be consumed, consider other ways of encouraging employees to drink more water. For example, require more frequent breaks, ensure cool drinking water is easily accessible, provide employees with their own water container, and educate employees on the dangers of heat related illnesses. You may even consider having a designated “water officer” who consistently encourages employees to drink water throughout the day. The point is to promote and encourage healthy and safe behavior.

It’s also important to ensure all workers are trained in noticing the signs of heat related illnesses, the severity of such illnesses and how to respond in urgent situations. Educating employees on how dangerous dehydration can become is often a good way to motivate them to stay hydrated and help each other stay hydrated.

HTH!

This entry was posted on Monday, May 1st, 2017 at 7:52 pm and is filed under
Workplace Health & Safety.
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