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CORRELATIONS BETWEEN BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS, PRODUCTIVITY, INJURY ON DUTY, ABSENTEEISM AND WELLNESS OF SHIFT WORKERS

Hypoglycaemia is a clinical condition in which blood sugar levels fall below 4.0mmol/l. When this happens, hormones, such as the catecholamines, are released, causing symptoms such as hunger, trembling, dizziness, headache and palpitations. Other more severe symptoms include fatigue, confusion, personality changes, weakness, psychosis, rapid and shallow breathing, lack of co-ordination, nausea and in severe cases coma. Many shift workers arrive on duty, not having eaten breakfast, with a fasting blood sugar (glucose) well below the ideal. (Ideal blood glucose level should be 4.0-6.0mmol/l).

The attached survey of miners at Kumba Iron Ore Thabazimbi Mine May 2012, showed that 35% started their shift on a tested (capillary finger-prick test) blood glucose of between 1.8-2.7mmol/l. Another 20% started their shift on a blood glucose reading of between 3-4.5mmol/l (lower end of the normal range).

Reasons for the low fasting blood glucose readings being so low are in most cases due to not having eaten since the previous evening’s meal. The nature of these labourers’ work is physical, causing blood sugar levels to fall further, putting them at extreme risk of developing one or more symptoms of hypoglycaemia.

Symptoms such as these significantly increase the risk of injury on duty, and / or illness resulting in absenteeism. Work performance is almost certainly guaranteed not to be optimal or even moderate. In order for workers, specifically shift workers, to achieve optimum work performance and thus maximise productivity, employers have the responsibility to ensure their optimum health. Part of achieving this, is through supplementing shift workers appropriately for their physical tasks at three-four hourly intervals.

Healthy employees are generally more motivated, more alert and thus more productive and less likely to be involved in incidents.

 

MEAL AND SUPPLEMENT PLANNING:

Research indicates that the ability to perform a task can be affected by the composition of the meal preceding the task. THE GLYCAEMIC INDEX Carbohydrate foods are all digested and absorbed into the blood stream in the form of glucose. Carbohydrate foods include: Starch, Fruit, Vegetables, Dairy Products, Legumes and Snacks containing CHO. The Glycaemic Index of food indicates the time period it takes for CHO-containing food to be digested and released (in the form of glucose) into the bloodstream.

Different types of carbohydrates have different effects on blood glucose and insulin levels. These differences are the Glycaemic Index (GI). The most common rating scale of the GI is 0-100.

Low GI foods (GI is below 55): digested and absorbed slowly and steadily over 3 -4 hours.

Intermediate GI foods (GI is between 55-69): digested and absorbed over 2 hours

High GI foods (GI is over 70): digested and absorbed rapidly within 30 min – 1 hour.

Therefore shift workers, miners and drivers working a 8 – 12-hour shift, need to have sustained energy for optimum sustained concentration whilst working, therefore I recommend a supplement(s) at specific times, as indicated on the operator-plan for the use of supplements, I proposed to Thabazimbi Manager Mining.

This low GI supplement must provide adequate sustained energy, electrolytes and other essential vitamins and minerals for maximum nutritional benefit.

In places with high day and night temperatures like Thabazimbi, it is imperative that employees are educated about the importance of fluid replacement, both on-shift and off-shift.

Studies done on miners with heat disorders often indicate findings of severe dehydration and salt depletion. It is important that the shift is started in a hydrated state, as opposed to a hypo hydrated state. Duration and spacing of meal breaks must allow for adequate fluid replacement. Education to all employees about fluid replacement, especially when they are off-shift, is also important.

 

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