Safety Preparedness Begins Before You Get to the Job Site

Your everyday health can sometimes take a back seat when you’re working hard out in the field, but that’s exactly where good safety practices start
Safety Preparedness Begins Before You Get to the Job Site

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The sweltering heat of summer is upon us. For pumpers working out in the field, hot days can be both exhausting and dangerous, so safety comes to mind in particular for me this time of year.

Safety gets a lot of well-deserved attention in the pumping industry because of the high risks pumpers face every day. It is important to remember, though, that job safety often starts well before pumpers ever show up for work.

Alert minds, fast reflexes, and heat tolerance are all important factors in workplace safety. Reporting to work healthy in mind and body is the first step to reducing injuries and incidents. While you can’t control what your employees do off the clock, you can still encourage healthy habits.

Pumping is a physical job, and it would seem like all that labor would keep workers fit and trim. Certainly we hear gloom and doom statistics about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, and pumpers are anything but sedentary. But having a physically demanding job alone is not enough to keep you healthy.

“Skinny fat” is currently a popular phrase in the fitness industry. What is skinny fat? It is a term used for people who don’t physically appear to be overweight but may have poor health, alarming blood work results and/or the kind of muscle conditioning expected from those who are visibly obese.

To summarize, a pumping career is not a guarantee of healthy living and poor personal health can lead to job hazards. Luckily, staying reasonably healthy isn’t as complicated as the fitness industry tries to make us believe. It’s as simple as making our health a priority. Small choices add up and can make a big difference over time.

Addressing personal health habits with your pumpers is a great topic to cover at safety meetings, even if it isn’t an obvious one. Here are my best small-step tips for healthy living — both on and off the clock:

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is critical to our health. In fact, after a hard day of work, there is no better gift you can give yourself than a good night of rest. The damage done to your body during the day heals while you are sleeping. The longer you sleep, the more you replenish.

Sleep deprivation has also been documented to affect judgment. As any safety officer will tell you, human behavior is the No. 1 risk on a job site. Good judgment is a little bit easier on a full night’s sleep. Prioritize your sleep.

Drink Enough Water and Take Electrolytes

Hydration is a favorite topic of safety officers during the summer months. But drinking water on the job, when you are perspiring throughout the day, really isn’t enough. You need to be hydrating off the job, too. Start your day with a big glass of water, and keep the water drinking train going all the way to bedtime.

Much like with a good sleep, a well-hydrated body is more alert and less prone to heat-related illness than a thirsty one.

When it is both hot and humid outside, water is sometimes not enough. Constant sweat leads to electrolyte depletion. Electrolytes can include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphate and chloride. Your body needs these nutrients to function properly.

Everyone has different electrolyte needs. If you are prone to cramping pain, a lack of electrolytes is likely your problem. If you aren’t convinced of how important electrolytes are, consider that they are necessary for digestion, the nervous system, cardiac function, and muscular systems.

For serious electrolyte issues, skip the gas station or grocery store. Instead, visit a running or endurance sports store where you’ll find electrolyte tablets that work much better and keep you feeling better than any sports drink. In fact, the absolute best way to replenish an electrolyte imbalance is with plant-based foods like bananas, raisins and coconuts. Sugary drinks, which can dehydrate you further, are not the only option.

Eat Real Food

Healthy eating takes a bit of effort, but proper nutritional support keeps your body functioning optimally. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go full kale salad and quinoa bowls to improve your dietary habits.

Many grocery and convenience stores — and even some fast food restaurants — offer healthier options these days. If you don’t know where to start, you’re not alone. Nutrition is complicated, and access to healthy foods, time to prepare it, and refrigeration are all a concern for a busy pumper. No wonder fast food options are popular in the industry.

But “eating healthy” is not one-size-fits-all, nor is it all-or-nothing. You can tweak your current diet, improve your nutrition, and feel better with small changes here and there. If you are used to eating out every day, the best change you can make is packing a lunch. Nearly every meal you would bring from home is healthier than a restaurant option.

Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol

We’ve all got our vices, so I’ll be careful throwing stones here. But hey, we know this stuff is bad for us. Tobacco is hard to enjoy in moderation. Most people are either addicted or not, and stress is a real obstacle to quitting smoking. Check to see if your insurance company offers a free smoking cessation program and encourage employees to use it.

Similarly, a beer after work is a nice way to unwind, but it can increase your risk on the job as well. Obviously, no one should perform pumping duties under the influence of alcohol. But what about the lingering effects?

Everything from anxiety to changes in coordination can be blamed on alcohol consumption. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it poisons the body. It also makes hydration an uphill climb. If you’ve ever had a hangover while working all day in the sun, you know why this is a bad idea.  

Overall, tobacco and alcohol make a pumper's life harder and the job riskier. The more you can curtail use, the better off you will be.

Day By Day

If your pumpers finish their day tired or cranky, or find themselves unfocused on the job, overall health habits might be to blame. Working this way is a risk to both the employee and their co-workers. It is a liability and increases chances of injury.

Encourage your pumpers to be at the top of their game and to improve their quality of life both on and off the job. Healthy living helps us all.  

About the author: Anja Smith is managing partner for All Clear Plumbing in Greenville, South Carolina. She can be reached at anja@acpupstate.com.



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