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Hydration and Safety: Operating Equipment in Hot Climates

By Leppo Rents
June 11, 2024

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding Heat Stress and Dehydration
  2. The Crucial Role of Hydration
  3. Practical Measures to Stay Hydrated
    1. The Right Way to Hydrate
    2. Electrolytes
  4. The Impact of Heat on Equipment Performance
    1. Control Direct Sun Exposure
    2. Inspect Coolant Systems
    3. Inspect Tires
    4. Avoid Peak Hours

When you are operating heavy machinery in hot climates, it’s not just the equipment that’s under stress — you are, too. Understanding the crucial roles of hydration and safety is the key to success during the warmer months. Dehydration and heat stress can subtly impair your cognitive and physical abilities, adding downtime, decreasing efficiency, and compromising your own safety. 

To tackle your projects efficiently and safely in the heat of the summer, there are several strategies you can implement to ensure you are running as smoothly as your equipment.  

Understanding Heat Stress and Dehydration 

According to the CDC, there are several heat-related illnesses to be aware of as we enter the warmer months. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, rhabdomyolysis, heat syncope, heat cramps, and heat rashes are some examples of illnesses caused by heat.  

Symptoms of a heat-related illness include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  1. Confusion, slurred speech, altered mental status
  2. Loss of consciousness (coma
  3. Hot, dry, or profuse sweating
  4. Seizures
  5. High body temperature
  6. Headache
  7. Nausea
  8. Dizziness
  9. Weakness or muscle cramps
  10. Thrist
  11. Decreased urine output
  12. Irritability

Not only do these illnesses and symptoms decrease your performance and efficiency on the jobsite, but they can also be extremely dangerous. They can even be fatal if treatment is delayed, which is why it’s important to recognize the symptoms and act fast. 

The Crucial Role of Hydration 

Proper hydration immensely helps with mental clarity and focus, mood enhancement, memory boosting, and the production of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals in the brain.  

When operating construction equipment, it’s essential for your brain to be sharp and focused. When you’re properly hydrated, your cognitive functions peak, enhancing your reaction time and decision-making skills. Hydration is your best defense against the heat-induced challenges of the jobsite.   

Practical Measures to Stay Hydrated 

It is recommended to drink 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes while working in hot climates. This adds up to about 32 ounces per hour. Be careful to not exceed 48 ounces per hour as it can result in too much water intake and could result in a medical emergency. It is also recommended to take scheduled meal or snack breaks throughout the day to allow your body to replace the electrolytes lost from sweating.  

Not only is it important to hydrate during the job, but it’s also important to prepare your body and allow it to recover after a long day of working in the heat. Starting your day off dehydrated makes it harder to hydrate during the day, increasing your risk of developing a heat-related illness.  

Drink water before, during, and after work to protect your body against dehydration.  

The Right Way to Hydrate 

When working in extreme heat, grabbing a glass of water isn’t always enough. Consider incorporating electrolyte drinks or hydrating fruits into your hydration plan. Some benefits of drinking electrolytes include: 

  1. Brain health 
  2. Heat protection
  3. Energy increase
  4. Blood pressure regulation
  5. Muscle health
  6. Recovery support

The minerals included in electrolytes are crucial for all aspects of your health. After a tough stint of working under the hot sun, you can effectively counteract the water and electrolyte loss caused by sweating by drinking enough water and electrolytes. 


Electrolytes are an important part of hydration, but they’re also crucial for basic processes like nerve and muscle function, hormone secretion, and blood pH balance. Bananas, yogurt, spinach, watermelon, oats, avocados, lemon juice, coconut water, and sea salt are natural sources of electrolytes.  

The Impact of Heat on Equipment Performance 

Not only is it important to protect your body against the dangerous effects of the heat, but it is also important to protect your equipment. Hot weather can cause just as much wear and tear on your equipment as cold weather can. Hot and dry conditions generate more dust in the air, putting your equipment at risk of dust infiltrating your machine and causing issues.  

Control Direct Sun Exposure 

Limiting the amount of time your equipment has in direct sunlight can prolong its life. Consider storing your equipment overnight in a storage facility, like a garage or a covered awning, to protect your equipment from the sun. If you need to, even parking your equipment in some shade will help during shorter periods of time. If you don’t have access to shade on a jobsite, consider bringing a tarp to place over your equipment to offer some relief from the sun.  

Inspect Coolant Systems 

It is recommended to flush and replace your coolant at least once per year, but a daily inspection can help you determine if you need to do this more frequently. Also, be sure not to forget about your radiator. It can corrode and get damaged, which can be problematic and expensive. Lastly, check the water pump for leaks and run a test on the engine to ensure the temperature doesn’t exceed the manufacturer’s recommendation.  

Inspect Tires 

It is extremely important to pay close attention to the inflation of the tires on your equipment during the warmer months. Ensuring that your tires maintain optimal contact with the surface is a great way to help with operator safety.  

For every 10 degrees Fahrenheit the temperature rises, the tire pressure increases by one pound per square inch. It’s important to stay on top of this and perform daily inspections on the tires of your equipment.  

Avoid Peak Hours 

For the safety of your workers and equipment, try and avoid peak sunlight hours as much as possible, which are from about 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This will protect your equipment and vehicles from overheating, adding downtime, and slowing down your operations. This will also help protect your employees from the sun and heat-related illnesses.  

Although avoiding these hours may not be possible for the job at hand, limiting exposure during these hours is highly recommended when possible. Consider implementing mandatory breaks in the shade or indoors every 30 minutes to give your equipment and employees time to recover from the high temperatures.  


Hydration is more than just quenching your thirst — it's protecting your health and safety on the jobsite. To ensure safety and avoid dangerous situations, don’t underestimate the power of regular water intake and scheduled breaks. Taking preventative measures to mitigate the effects of high temperatures on the performance of your equipment and people will keep your jobsite and employees running smoothly. Don’t let high temperatures hold you back from reaching new heights.  

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