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Dene Mitchell


Sunsafe strategies in the workplace

Summer is officially here and alongside hopes of settled weather many of us may be also hoping for sunshine as we “staycation”. When we head to the beach on a sunny day it’s automatic to pack our sunscreen, hats but are you aware of the risks you and your workers face if you work outdoors?

Athletes and sports instructors training and playing, builders and construction workers, schoolteachers supervising pupils on the playground, farmers and forestry workers could all be at an elevated risk of sun exposure and therefore potentially at risk of skin cancer. It also doesn’t have to be full-time outdoor work for sun exposure to pose a serious risk.

According to a 2012 study, exposure to the sun in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors resulted in about 130 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer. The same study estimates that 2.3 million service sector workers have been exposed to non-melanoma skin cancer from outdoor work in the sun.

Skin cancer is an avoidable disease, so how can you ensure your staff are protected at work? Firstly, as with all risk assessments you need to identify who is at risk. This can include anyone who works outside regularly, especially those outside between 11am and 3pm, even on overcast days.

We’ve put together a brief list of sun-safe strategies and actions you can use to keep your outdoor workers safe:

  • Working hours. Here in the UK the most dangerous time to be in the sun during the summer is generally between 11am and 3pm, consider if your outdoor workers have to work in direct sunlight or if they can be moved to shady areas, or even work inside. This could be achieved by rotating workers around so each spends a minimal time in direct sunlight.
  • Breaks. Ensure workers are able to take frequent breaks out of the sunlight and have access to cool water.
  • Clothes. In warm weather it’s natural to want to shed our winter layers for a summery t-shirt but without sunscreen this exposes workers to burns. Consider appropriate clothing that keep workers cool but don’t allow sunlight through, perhaps a wide-brimmed hat that shades the face, neck and ears. Alternately, safety helmets can be purchased with flaps to protect the neck.
  • Sunglasses. It’s widely known that looking directly at the sun can cause permanent eye damage, but without proper eye protection workers can be at risk for painful temporary burns to the surface of the eye. This risk is increased further if there is reflected sunlight from water, sand or concrete. If eye protection is required for the work being carried out, use UV filtering safety goggles.
  • Driving. If workers are driving for work on a regular basis during the summer, check whether the car windows are laminated. Laminated windows can filter most UVA, but if the windows are not laminated consider adding UV protective films or tints.
  • Sunscreen. All areas that skin is unprotected by other measures (such as hands, face and lips) must be covered by high factor sunscreen.

Further resources:

Give your dedicated health and safety consultant a call if you’d like to review your sun-safe procedures.

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Our content is correct at the date of publishing, but should not be taken as legal advice, and our articles don’t replace Risk Assessments. Armour will not be held accountable for any legal actions the reader may take.