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Service Savvy: Hot Summers, Dehydration, and Technicians

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What does dehydration and technician behavior have in common? Keep reading. Enduring the rigors of hostile work environments, such as when a technician works in an attic on a hot summer day, can affect a service professional’s demeanor. A technician working on an attic blower can experience temperatures greater than 140°F and sometimes as high as 170°F. Extreme temperatures can result in dehydration, which can affect basic physical and mental functions. 

None of our body’s cells or organs can work properly in the absence of water. Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in. We lose water routinely when we sweat to cool the body and through exhaling as humidified air leaves the body. In extremely hot environments, water loss increases exponentially. The reduced fluid in the body’s blood vessels affects cardiac output, so the blood vessels constrict in an effort to maintain proper blood pressure and deliver blood to vital organs. Eventually, the reduction in blood affects bodily functions, with severe dehydration, confusion, and weakness occur as the brain and other body organs receive less blood. 

Technicians working in extremely hot environments should alert their dispatchers or office reps and agree on follow-up calls every 15 to 20 minutes so that a dispatcher regularly phones the technician to make sure he is still alert and functional. There are numerous accounts of technicians who have fainted and lost consciousness while working in extremely hot environments. An ounce of prevention, such as follow-up calls every 15- to 20-minutes, can avert such emergencies. 

Diet dramatically affects a service professional’s overall performance and demeanor. When service professionals are out in the field, it’s best to make smart food and snack choices. This recommendation is based on the impact that unhealthy eating can have on a service professional’s ability to stay focused and perform well. 

Limiting sugar intake during the course of your workday is a good start. Too much sugar may provide a quick energy boost, but the effect soon wears off and leaves service professionals more tired, irritable, anxious, or depressed. None of these results coincide with the optimal behaviors needed to stay sharp, alert, and courteous. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Dietary Guidelines recommend choosing foods and beverages with little added sugars. These are not the naturally occurring sugars in fruits but rather those added in the processing of soft drinks, candy, cake, cookies, pies, and fruit drinks. 

Sugars such as fructose, sucrose, honey, and corn syrup are metabolized in the same way. Likewise, the sugar found in a banana and that in a can of soda are both digested similarly, but the banana contains added benefits. The main difference is that most soda and candy are nutritionally empty, whereas the banana contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Bananas are handy and easy to carry (about the same size as a candy bar), and they have tremendous health benefits.  

This summer, technicians are advised to pay more attention to their diet to minimize the effects of extreme and hostile thermal environments. 

Steve Coscia, CSP

Posted In: ACCA Now, Print Edition, Safety, Workplace Safety

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