Bathroom breaks may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of safety for the snow and ice industry, but the reality is that long hours behind the wheel without a break can cause health problems and risks you may have not considered.
While occasionally holding urine (everyone has to at some point!) will not hurt you, prolonged and constant holding can cause a number of conditions, including:
- Infection: Waiting a long time between bathroom breaks allows bacteria to multiply in your bladder, which can lead to urinary tract infections, bladder infections, or kidney infections. These conditions could become serious and require hospitalization if left untreated.
- Chronic conditions: Constantly holding urine can stretch and weaken fragile bladder muscles. Over time, this damage can lead to urinary retention (the inability to empty the bladder completely) or urinary incontinence (involuntary leaking).
- Distraction: Holding urine for too long can become highly uncomfortable and even painful, which can distract you from safely completing a job or rushing to finish.
- Dehydration: If you can make it through long periods of time without the urge to urinate, you may not be taking in enough fluids. Dehydration can cause the bladder to get used to holding smaller amounts of urine and can cause irritation in the bladder lining, which can lead to sensitivity and pain.
A healthy bladder will function better and can help you go at more regular intervals (most people need to go six to eight times a day), allowing you to plan out breaks better and know how long you’ll be able to safely go without one. The following tips can help maintain bladder health:
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water – about six to eight glasses per day – to flush out the urinary tract and help prevent bladder infections. Limit caffeinated beverages, which can increase irritation and the need to go.
- Eat a healthy diet: Avoid constipation from an unhealthy diet, which can cause the bowel to swell and put pressure on the bladder.
- Maintain a healthy weight and exercise: Physical activity and a healthy weight can help prevent bladder problems.
- Avoid smoking: Tobacco is a major risk factor for many cancers and illnesses, including bladder cancer.
- Address problems early: If you notice pain during urination, blood in your urine, or feel the need to go frequently, see a doctor to get the problem treated as early as possible.
A little planning can go a long way when it comes to making sure crews know the importance of breaks and have access to restrooms. Implementing polices like these can make it easy and safe to take quick restroom breaks:
- Create a list of places where employees can use the restroom. Map locations that are open and convenient or discuss with clients if using a restroom on site is possible.
- Clearly spell out any restrictions (e.g., not on the side of the building). Don’t encourage the use of anywhere that is not a proper restroom, especially on a site or in a public area. No manager wants to look out the window to see someone using a makeshift “restroom” on their property!
- Plan for restroom breaks as much as possible. Crews going in groups can lead to service delays, so try to stagger them as much as possible.
- Make sure operators check in with area managers/crew foreman before leaving the site for a restroom break.
Bottom line, when nature calls, it’s best to answer in a timely and professional fashion.