Despite the changeable weather in the UK, it is now even more important than ever to consider sun exposure for those working outside. However many outdoor workers:
1. Take their tops off
2. Don’t wear a hat
3. Sit outside in the sun when taking a break
4. Don’t wear sun cream
5. Don’t drink plenty of water
Lots of outdoor workers do not protect themselves for many reasons, for example bravado, uncomfortable equipment, and not understanding why they need to protect themselves.
What is UV and why is it a hazard?
Sunburn is caused by ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun. You can’t feel UV rays. The heat we feel from the sun comes from infrared rays (IR), these IR rays can’t burn you. This is why people can and do still burn on cool days. Too much UV radiation from the sun can damage your skin cells. If this builds up enough damage over time it can cause abnormal cell growth which can then lead to skin cancer.
Cancer Research UK state that
‘’Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer and over 8 out of 10 melanomas in the UK (around 11,100 cases every year) are linked to too much exposure to UV rays from sunlight or sunbeds’’.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) state that UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for people who work outdoors. It is not only the possibility of skin damage that needs to be considered. Outdoor workers also need to be protected against damage to their eyes, overheating and dehydration.
What should workers do?
- Take care around midday and do not spend too long in the sun unprotected.
- Cover up and spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm when possible. Use at least factor 15 sunscreen on exposed skin.
- Outdoor workers should check their skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots and should visit their GP promptly if they find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding.
What should employers do?
- Risk assessment is one way to help employees be aware of the risk to sun exposure but cannot control the risks alone.
- Ensure outdoor workers are well informed, have the right equipment and understand the risks.
- Listen to the concerns employees have and actively involve them in choosing controls to help them.
For more information on our risk assessment and training services please contact us.