Features, Personal protective equipment, Safety systems and solutions, Work health and safety



Likened to an internal hard hat, SAFETY by PREPD Hydration is becoming a staple in the fight against dehydration and fatigue in the mining industry.

The opening months of 2024 were marked by heatwaves that scorched their way across Australia. 

Parts of Perth hit 45 °C, smashing multi-year records. Birdsville in central-west Queensland recorded its hottest ever January day at 49.4 °C, and many other regions in Western Australia, like Marble Bar and Paraburdoo, pushed similarly sweltering numbers. 

Working in that kind of heat can of course take a significant toll.

When the body’s core temperature exceeds 37°C, it reacts by increasing the blood flow to the skin, producing sweat that cools the body when it evaporates. That means workers in the heat will quickly lose fluids through sweat and become dehydrated. 

Dehydration has been shown to increase fatigue, and impair physical performance, reaction time and decision-making, the consequences of which are potentially severe and even fatal in a mining environment. 

Though strides have been made in safety technologies that protect workers from their environment, a worker’s individual health is just as critical to the equation. That is to say that when it comes to safety, there’s no replacement for proper hydration.

This is a fact that PREPD Hydration chief executive officer Andrew Perry knows only too well.

“The science shows us that 70 per cent of miners arrive at work already in a dehydrated state,” he told Safe to Work.

“In an industry like mining, people are losing approximately a litre of fluid an hour. Say you’re a 100kg person, it’ll take you roughly three hours to become three per cent dehydrated. 

“At that level, your reaction time and decision-making are impaired to the same extent as being over the legal blood alcohol limit. You wouldn’t let workers have two or three alcoholic beverages at lunch before jumping back behind the wheel of a haul truck, but that’s the equivalent of what’s happening with dehydration.”

This is the problem that SAFETY by PREPD was created to solve. 

Built on 20 years of research, SAFETY is a hydration drink with a package of health benefits, but the main one is that it helps the body optimally absorb fluids. 

A fruit-based smoothie with a thick, silky texture, SAFETY is currently available in two flavours: mango and strawberry. It’s already being rolled out at mine sites across Australia, including with some of the biggest names in the industry.

But to understand the drink, it’s important to understand the science behind it. 

“In the 1990s the World Health Organization asked for help in dealing with a massive issue in India and Bangladesh, where millions of children were dying annually, caused by dehydration from rotavirus and cholera,” Perry said.

“Gastroenterologists at Flinders University in Adelaide and Yale University in the US found that if you put a certain fibre into an oral rehydration solution, the body’s ability to absorb fluids increased significantly.

“They were able to use that science in India and Bangladesh to save millions of lives.”

PREPD Hydration is a spin-out of Flinders University’s commercial arm. Having refined the same science that was once used to save millions of lives, PREPD now has the mining industry square in its sights. 

“Anything you put in your mouth is going to be absorbed back into your bloodstream through the small intestine, which is what needs to happen to keep you hydrated – it’s as simple as that,” Perry said.

“SAFETY by PREPD Hydration contains a patented fibre that resists being broken down in the stomach. This means it reaches the small intestine, promoting optimal fluid absorption and pushing water molecules into the bloodstream.”

SAFETY has vitamin B12 for improved concentration. Image: PREPD Hydration.

Unlike sugary drinks, which can’t properly be absorbed by the body and merely pass through it, SAFETY has a low sugar content that makes it optimal for fluid absorption.

In addition to hydration, SAFETY promotes gut health – a major driver in the body’s immune system. 

“The magic really happens when the drink reaches the large intestine,” Perry said. 

“There it produces short-chain fatty acids which, on top of being good for gut health, signal to the brain that there’s fluid in the large intestine, which the body can then absorb into the bloodstream again.

“So not only are we optimally absorbing the fluids that we’re normally drinking through the small intestine, but we’ve also opened up a 5L reserve in our large intestine that we bring back into our bloodstream. 

“That’s where the real science sits.”

For Perry, PREPD Hydration is a perfect fit for the mining industry. 

“Dehydration and heat exhaustion contribute to accidents which cost the mining industry roughly $4 billion every year,” he said. 

“Miners are also required to wear heavy PPE [personal protective equipment], which can actually increase the rate of dehydration to up to 2.25L per hour.

“SAFETY allows workers to stay better hydrated, and if we’re better hydrated, we’re healthier individuals, we cognitively perform better, and we’re safer.”

From an operational standpoint, Perry said that being just five per cent dehydrated can reduce productivity by up to 50 per cent. Add in the disruptions to operations that can occur after an incident, and mine sites have plenty of reason to keep their workforce hydrated and alert with PREPD.

“When they’re not out in the heat, miners are usually in air-conditioned dongas, workstations, airplanes or vehicles,” Perry said. “That means they’re always in an environment where they’re susceptible to infection. 

“By promoting gut health – which contributes to around 70 per cent of the immune system – SAFETY can help with that.” 

PREPD conducted a case study of the effects of SAFETY on workers maintaining a railway line at an iron ore hub in the Pilbara. 

“The feedback was that the workers using it had more energy in the morning,” Perry said. “They felt better in the second half of the shift in terms of their ability to physically do their job. 

“They also reported sleeping better at night; hydration and sleep go hand-in-hand.”

SAFETY by PREPD Hydration is promoting optimal hydration, protecting mine workers against heat and fatigue. 

“We have had people tell us that they used SAFETY during their steam shutdown, which is usually physically and mentally demanding,” Perry said.

“They found having SAFETY each morning and night set them up for their day and they honestly felt the difference in their energy levels and mental clarity. SAFETY is a fruity smoothie.

“It’s been an absolute hit with workers”. 

This feature also appears in the March-April issue of Safe to Work.

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