I have attended a seminar last year which tackled the ins and outs of the safety and health aspect in the workplace. One topic which stood out for me was how employers are required to provide the best water for the employees. It may be something simple, but companies overlook this aspect.
If you own a business in any part of the world, remember that you are responsible for keeping a safe and healthy environment for your workers. It includes supplying them with clean drinking water to be able to keep them hydrated for the rest of the day. But, as employers, what are the things that you should keep in mind to guarantee that your employees have the healthiest water in your office?
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says some countries, the primary water standards which employers are required to do are to provide the workers with water which are potable. They should also make sure these potable drinking water are in sufficient amounts, prohibit employees from sharing drinking cups, and ensure the workers dispense drinking water using a covered container.
Aside from these things, however, there are other ways to help in adopting this cause. Let us explore each one of them.
Legal Obligations of Employers to Provide Drinking Water
Work health and safety regulations are required to ensure the implementation of safe drinking water in the office. However, employers must make sure that all their provisions should consider the overall situation of the employers. These relevant matters include the composition of the workforce, the number of people physically present in the office, size, location, nature of work, and health hazards.
The Code of Practice: Managing the work environment and facilities provide the essential guides needed for this initiative. For one, the clean drinking water installed in the office should be free charge. Employees should not pay for their water while inside the office. Some professionals consider this as a violation of the rights of their employees.
Another thing that employees should consider is the accessibility of drinking water. It must be in an area where most workers come together. Places, where strenuous work happens, can also be an alternative location for it. In these cases, the employers don’t have to tire themselves out further just to have a simple drink. Lastly, it should also be separated from any toilet and washing facilities to avoid any contamination.
For employers to ensure the safety of employees from contaminated water, the water should be in a place where it is not that hot. Employers should ensure that the water containers are not by direct sunlight. They should make sure that the drinking water is at or below 24 degrees Celsius on average. It can be achieved either by providing non-contaminated ice, protecting water pipes from the sun, shading containers, or refrigerated water.
What Counts as a Clean and Safe Drinking Water?
According to most regulations regarding water supply, clean and safe drinking water is characterized as such if it does not contain the following:
– Concentrations which are not part of the prescribed values by water supply departments of some countries;
– Any parasite or microorganism;
– Any substance at a particular level when mixed with another material might result in potential danger to human health; and
– Any part of non-living organisms such as leaves, insects, and many other more.
It also considered safe drinking water if the water satisfies the said formula, [level of nitrate]/50 + [level of nitrite]/3 < 1, where the level of nitrate and nitrite refers to the concentrations of both chemicals. Get your Free Water Test here.
As employers, of course, you are not required to test the substances yourselves. What you can do is to employ a water company which can serve as the main testers of the water in your workplace. If you don’t have a water company in mind, you may also contact local environmental health offices in your town. They are capable of testing the quality of your water and at the same time, provide some advice on how to improve your water system in the office.
Lastly, employers are recommended to at least have regular checkups on the testing of the water to ensure that everyone is drinking the water provided safely.
Types of Water Systems in the Workplace
There are various approaches on how to ensure that employers provide the best water to the employees. Here are some systems you might want to try for your company:
Jugged Workplace Water System
It is probably the most common system which companies adopt and it is most likely the type of water system which comes to the minds of people first. It is a water system which refers to the use of a large jug, either a 2-gallon, 3-gallon, or 5-gallon jar, which are placed on the corners of offices or at a counter stand.
Whenever placed on the floor, it usually takes a floor space of approximately one square foot. Installing it on the floor is more apt for companies who have ample office space. However, for those startups who only have a limited office space, most employers prefer to place this water system on top of counter stands in the pantry or break rooms.
The models for this water system is either stainless steel or an aluminum model which are available in colors white, gray, or black. With regards to the price, floor-standing models are most likely more expensive than the smaller ones placed on countertops.
So, how does a Jug Water System work?
It relies on the concept of gravity – water travels from the jug down to a dispensing spigot. One of its distinctive and essential features is its ability to cool or warm water. It can be through an electric heating element as a way to warm the water and a compressor to provide coolness to the water. These unique features are in between the jug itself and dispensing spigot.
To be able to serve either the hot or cold water, these jugs usually have two dispensing faucets. One is for the hot water, and the other is for the cold water. However, in some coolers, there is a third dispensing lever which brings out room-temperature water.
One 5-gallon jug is equivalent to around 16.9 oz. It is also equal to approximately 38 to 40 single-service plastic bottles whose weight is about 42 pounds. One downside of using this water system is that offices find a hard time to pick-up and carry these 5-gallon containers. Hence, most employers find themselves hiring an individual water company which will provide and delivers to their spaces to avoid any hassle.
These water companies usually offer natural spring water. In some cases, however, distilled, fluoridated, or demineralized water is the ones they serve. Either way, all of these are safe for the employees.
Filtration Water System
Employers must comply with the standards set by the Safe Drinking Water Act implemented by various countries. So, how exactly can the companies make sure that they are well within standards? For me, by going a step further from the norm.
Companies do not usually adopt a filtered water dispenser. The reason for this is either the system is too expensive or that it is too much for a hassle for the employers. However, if you have the time and the resources to install this, go for it. It is an easy way to stay free from contaminants which are most of the time found in potable water.
Through the use of a water filtration system in your company, there is a massive change that you will be able to lessen and eliminate impurities in the water drastically. The filter is a type of carbon cartridge which serves as a trap for minerals and other contaminants. It will only be useful in removing pollutants before it gets overloaded.
It will be for the benefit of everyone since no one will most likely get sick. On a side note, clean water also results in good-tasting drinking water which your employees might like!
How does a filtration water system work?
Filtered water dispensers are usually hooked directly to the water lines of your building. It uses both a NanoCeram filter and an active carbon which are the main instruments that remove impurities from treated tap water. Some examples of these impurities include heavy metals, pesticides, chlorine, and even bacteria.
Another feature which a filtered water system caters is that it can also slow the rate of flow of the water which is coursing through the pipe. Other models also contain two or more filters. The reason for that is that it gives a unique purification ability which can filter specific toxins or contaminants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and perchlorate.
One of the things that are stopping employers from installing this contraption is because of its hassle system. The owners have to change the filter of the system regularly. The frequency of these changes depends on the size of the filter. Some people last for a month or two while others can withstand up to six months. Changing the filter adds to the monthly expenses of the companies which may also affect their decision to use this system.
Bottled Workplace Water System
Many companies, especially those small or new ones, prefer to just stock individuals bottles of water. They opt to implement this system since it is more hassle-free for them. They have to stock several bottles and let their workers get their own anytime. Then, they have to restock it again after a while.
What makes them like this system is as well is that there is no complicated machinery they have to take care off. There will be no issues when it comes to breaking down or cleaning. Hence, it is easy to manage. There are many disadvantages compared to advantages; however, using bottled water system. Listed below are some of these downsides:
– Implementing this system is more expensive. Let us compare it with using 5-gallon water. Purchasing bottled water will set you back for about 50% in terms of costings. It means that buying 5-gallon water is cheaper by 50% than buying bottled water that is equivalent to the same water level.
– Another recurring problem is weight. If you purchase 24-pack bottled water, it will also weigh approximately 24 lbs. It can get tiring as well in terms of carrying it from the grocery, bringing to the car, and transporting it from the vehicle to your workplace’s storage area. Although a 5-gallon jug weighs 15 lbs more, it is usually delivered to the office by the water service company.
– The main disadvantage of implementing a bottled workplace water system is its negative impact on the environment.
According to a report by The Pacific Institute, “Bottled water production also consumes water itself: to produce one liter of bottled water, one must use up to three liters of tap water… [F]rom start to finish bottled water consumes between 1100 and 2000 times more energy than tap water. [S]ixty million plastic bottles end up in American landfills daily… [L]ess than five percent of [plastic bottles are] recycled… Producing the bottles for American consumption requires the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including the energy for transportation.”
The negative impact on the environment is the primary concern of companies when asked why this system is not in the workplace. The companies do not want to steer away from their vision or their company’s commitment regarding green principles.
Hydration at Work
One factor that we are trying to solve in providing clean and accessible water is to avoid the problem of hydration. Although there are laws which ensure that employers reach specific requirements in the role of safe drinking water, there are still a lot of barriers which can cause inadequate hydration.
There are work environments which do not have direct water accessibility. Some examples of these are drivers who are forced to take long-distance driving for logistical concerns. There are also employees who work in controlled environments such as hospital operating surgeries, teachers in school, and in building sites. In some instances, these workers are not capable of accessing water.
Strenuous Nature of Work
There are jobs which are demanding in nature which leads to inadequate hydration. Some examples of these are those work which is physically demanding like farmers who work in the field, construction workers who are lifting heavy objects in building infrastructures, and landscapers who are always outside.
Those who are only limited to an office set up with air conditioning is also prone to dehydration. Air conditioning units are known to speed up the evaporation of moisture in our skins and lungs. Hence, there is an increase in water loss. At the same time, it is also difficult for the people in this work environment to feel the dehydration since they are not feeling any tiredness and exhaustion. It means that they have no urge to replenish their body water.
The working altitude is also a factor in dehydration. The higher your work altitude is, the more likely you will be dehydrated. Often characterized by jobs such as aircrews, armed forces, and construction workers.
What are the Effects of Dehydration?
As an employer, you do not want your employees to feel dehydrated when they are doing their jobs since it can cause unwanted side effects.
Dehydration and Work Performance
According to science, our brains are composed of around 70 percent water while our bodies are about 50 to 75 percent water. It also depends on the age and gender of a particular individual. Hence, this proves how much effect dehydration can cause to the body and brain and affect the performance at work.
Severe dehydration is found to cause short-term memory and the capability to take in the process and interpret visual information. The reason behind this is that those who are dehydrated takes a lot of time to focus and concentrate on their tasks that all the information presented to them could not register in their brain.
At the same time, another study conducted showed drinking water in an examination setting can have a positive effect on the cognitive function. The experiment started by dividing the class into two groups – one group was provided with water, and the others given none. Then, they gave all of the respondents the same test.
Upon checking the examination an hour later, the findings presented that those who consumed water while taking the test had a significantly higher grade than those who did not. It showed there is indeed a correlation between proper hydration and cognitive performance.
Another experiment backs up this claim. Researchers from a university in Australia studied the effect of having to intake water in stressful situations. They started by picking 20 respondents in a particular office with all of them being in the same job position. Then, they presented a marketing pitch to a panel after a 30-minute preparation.
Once they have presented their marketing pitches, those people who were able to drink water on their preparation and presentation proper had more creative angles than those who did not drink — measured by the average scores of the five judges who criticized their plans.
Lastly, a recent survey found out that approximately $2.5 billion are lost in productivity each year as a result of workers who miss a day at work due to any chronic illness – most of which connected to just simple dehydration.
Dehydration and Headaches
The lower the levels of water someone drinks, the higher the tendency that he or she will feel a headache. Migraines and headaches are because of dehydration reduce the flow of both oxygen and blood. There won’t be that much work done if you have a splitting sickness since it will keep you from working at your optimum levels.
Dehydration and Mood
One effect that dehydration can cause is the change of mood of employers. When individuals lack water inside, their mood gets affected in many ways.
One study of 15 young women, who are around 23 years of age, showed that a 1.5 percent loss of body mass due to dehydration led to poor mood, higher tendency to leave complete their tasks, reduced concentration, and more frequent headaches.
It supported by a study in 2015 which was carried out on 120 American working women. The first step that the researchers did were to record their water intake of the subjects for seven days. It213
23+ is a way to study the patterns and trends in their water consumption. They also took note of the subjective moods and behaviors of the respondents so that they can correlate it with the number of glasses drank.
After doing this initial run, they lowered the amount of water taken in the next seven days. For example, in a Monday, it was found out in the initial run that the respondent drank around nine glasses, the researchers made sure that he or she will only drink two glasses-less in the next Monday.
After finishing the 7-day testing, the researcher analyzed the difference in the moods of the researchers between the days of lowered water intake and their average days. The results showed that the individuals were less patient, more irritable, and moody on the days that they had less water intake. Some of them even had episodes of anxiety, tension, and fatigue.
These small studies conducted prove how much a workplace environment can be affected by inadequate hydration. Dehydration affects the mood and in return, will also cause negative implications on the enjoyment of being in the workplace.
Dehydration and Delayed Reaction Time
Research says that a three percent dehydration can result in a person’s delayed reaction time. This case is similar to that of an individual with a 0.8 blood alcohol content. To be able to illustrate, imagine that you are a person with this 0.8 level of blood alcohol content. Those who are in this situation are five times more likely to be involved in a car accident. It is the same case with those who are nursing a three percent dehydration level.
Because of this delayed reaction time, there is a tendency that dehydration can slow workplace productivity. It is also more likely that an individual would easily suffer an accident in the workplace. It is more problematic for those who are present in a dangerous workplace setting such as construction workers and the armed forces.
Dehydration and Low Energy
Dehydration causes severe fatigue and weakness. These states will directly affect the physical and mental state of an individual. The more a person is veering away from the brain and the body’s normal state, the tendency is that you will exhibit low energy.
Having high energy is an advantage for individuals who are working – especially for those who require a lot of movement. Drinking water regularly ensures that you will be able to accomplish your daily goals easily.
Dehydration and Increased Levels of Stress
Dehydration affects the stress levels of an employee. Keeping hydrated always ensures that the levels of cortisol, a stress-inducing hormone, are placed within the healthy range. High levels of stress are critical in the workplace since it lowers employee productivity and hinders job collaboration and teamwork.
What is Your Role as an Employer?
So, what is your role as an employer when it comes to avoiding the problem of dehydration and providing the best water for your employees? Here are eight tips you can adopt to improve employee hydration in your workplace.
1. Establish a Proper Water System in the Office
As mentioned in the first part, there are various water systems which your business can adopt. It can be in multiple forms like providing bottled water, establishing a filter system, or placing jugged water dispensers. These initiatives will encourage people to hydrate using these viable options.
2. Educate the Employees
Yes, a lot of people know that it is essential to drink water regularly. However, do they know to what extent it should be? Are they also aware of the implications of not doing so? As an employer, you can conduct various initiatives which can serve as education campaigns on the importance of hydration.
You may opt to place posters around the workplace, have short meetings on the technicalities of it, or bring up in meetings. It will most likely motivate people to get that glass of water.
3. Setup a Hydration Action Committee
When establishing a system, it is crucial to come up with a team which will lead and is accountable regarding the said initiatives. This committee can also be the one who will monitor the water supplies, create water campaigns, come up with fun and innovative initiatives, and coordinate with water agencies.
4. Liven Up Serving Water
According to studies, one of the reasons why people struggle with drinking water is that the taste is too bland or boring. Hence, they result in drinking other kinds of beverages such as energy drinks and sodas.
To liven up the plain water served in the workplace, you may opt to make ice cubes made out of 100 percent fruit juice. You may also help pitchers of water which contain fruit such as melon, cucumber, lemon, or orange.
5. Avoid Stocking Sodas and Sports Drinks
As mentioned above, people are more inclined to drinking flavored beverages such as sodas and energy drinks. Not stocking these kinds of beverages in the office setting will encourage more people to quench their thirst by drinking water. You may also inform them that sugar-laden drinks can only cause many complications in the body such as headaches, sugar crashes, and weight gain.
6. Introduce Hydration Monitoring Applications
There are various online applications which can serve as a tracker or a reminder for you to drink water. Some examples of these monitoring apps include Waterlogged, iDrated, and Daily Water. You can encourage your employees to use an app they prefer and compare weekly streaks.
7. Set a Goal or Challenge for Your Employees and Give Incentives
Keeping them hydrated can stem out from letting them come up with their purpose. For example, you may ask them to reach a specific target number of glasses which they have to drink throughout the day. If they succeed in it, you may opt to give them incentives or small tokens as a price.
8. Require Them to Bring a Water Bottle to Work Every Day
By requiring them to deliver or stock a water bottle in the office will serve as a constant reminder to drink. At the same time, if they are rushing from a meeting to another meeting, then having a bottle will be the best alternative to keep them hydrated. They won’t have any excuse in not hydrating regularly.
As employers, remember to engage yourself with these kinds of initiatives for your employees. Water brings a lot of benefits to your employees’ working life which in return provides significant effects to your company. It may not appear as a priority adjustment, but water can be the productivity multiplier you are missing out to achieve your goals.
What if my employees are not inclined into drinking water? What are the other ways to keep them dehydrated? You may also suggest to your employees to eat more water-contained food if they are not avid fans of water. Eating fruits such as apples, oranges, and melons can be their go-to snacks or side dishes. Better yet, instead of having cupcakes or bread in the snack room, stock up with some fruits like watermelon, apples, and pineapples.
What are the signs of dehydration? Some symptoms that your employees are experiencing mild to moderate dehydration include lack of concentration, headaches, less need to urinate, dry mouth, tiredness, and fogginess. On the other hand, they are already experiencing severe dehydration once they feel symptoms such as confusion, extreme thirst, irritability, rapid breathing, and a quickened heartbeat.