Ranger cool on hot Pilbara work

A program that helps employees manage their hydration while working in one of Australia’s hottest regions has won its creator the Australia’s Mining Monthly Awards Safety Excellence award.
Ranger cool on hot Pilbara work Ranger cool on hot Pilbara work Ranger cool on hot Pilbara work Ranger cool on hot Pilbara work Ranger cool on hot Pilbara work

Pilbara weather is extreme

Indeed, the program has been so well received, no-one in the company has needed medical aid for dehydration since it started.

Developed by Ranger Drilling in 2018, the Ranger hydration and heat illness program initiative was rolled out to show employees how to keep hydrated and healthy while working in Western Australia's Pilbara, after a couple of cases of dehydration.

Ranger business services manager Andrew Campbell told Australia's Mining Monthly the Pilbara was getting hotter, so heat-related risks were increasing.

He said despite providing ice water, electrolytes, vehicles with air-conditioned cabs, shade and training, workers were still reporting heat-related illnesses.

To counter this, Ranger started looking at ways for workers to self-manage their hydration levels.

As part of the hydration program actions, tests and tools dependant on an individual's urine specific gravity test result were developed, and urine pen refractometers were installed on all rigs by March 2018.

Workers were taught how to use the pens and record the data, with training undertaken in September as the weather was heating up.

No heat-illness cases were recorded, however, Campbell said in December 2018 and Feb 2019 there were two cases of hyponatremia, where a worker drank too much water and diluted the sodium levels in his blood.

He said because people had different physiologies it was not always the best idea to just drink more water when thirsty.

Finding the worker was a vegan, the program was adjusted accordingly to highlight the importance of sodium intake as well as water for non-meat eaters.

Ranger's total recordable injury frequency rate has dropped as a result of the hydration program, from 15.2 to 6.3, with the two hyponatremia cases accounting for the 6.3 figure.

Campbell said 60,000 tests had been carried out by 130 workers in the 20-months since the program started, and despite the average monthly ambient temperatures hitting 35C, no-one had needed hospitalisation or treatment for dehydration in that time.