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Employers are required by law to provide workers with access to drinking water, yet many employees remain unclear about hydration. What is the “right” amount to drink every day and, crucially, how can it vary according to the type of work carried out and the environment in which the work takes place? Sarah Silcox investigates.
Hydration is an important workplace issue, according to Dr Emma Derbyshire, an adviser to the Natural Hydration Council (NHC), a not-for-profit organisation researching the science behind hydration, funded primarily by its members in the UK bottled water industry.
“The evidence is that being hydrated is associated with better cognition and mental performance, and helps combat tiredness and fatigue, all of which can help organisational productivity”, Derbyshire argues. “Also, there is a legal requirement on employers to provide access to water”.
Various official bodies produce guidance on the recommended daily intake of fluids, when the message is inconsistent it can make it difficult for OH professionals and others to get the hydration message across.
Derbyshire agrees that the different sets of recommendations can appear confusing, but she argues that those published by the European Food Safety Authority should be the ones to go to: “Their guidance of 2.5 litres for men and two litres or women a day should be used. Of course, the guidelines talk about ‘fluids’, which can include tea and coffee and other drinks, but the NHC believes that water is the purest form of hydration as it is calorie and energy free – vital given concerns about growing levels of obesity”, she adds.
Examining the European guidelines in more detail suggests that 70% to 80% of recommended fluid intake comes from drinks (as opposed to foods).
“This boils down to a headline figure of eight glasses of water a day, which can appear daunting and open to misinterpretation. Realistically, people should be aiming to drink about six glasses of water and a couple of cups of tea or coffee, or something similar, a day”, Derbyshire suggests.
How much water should we drink?
Water is essential for life and an individual’s health; a regular intake is necessary for maintaining the body's fluid balance. However, it is dif