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Sun Safety

Posted on June 24, 2024

Working outdoors can be incredibly rewarding, offering a break from the confines of indoor spaces and providing a unique connection with nature.   However, it’s essential to recognise the risks posed by prolonged sun exposure, even in a country known for its often temperate climate like the UK.  While the UK might not have the scorching temperatures of some other regions, sun safety remains crucial for outdoor workers.  Here’s a comprehensive guide to staying safe under the sun while working outside in the UK.

Understanding UV Radiation

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the primary cause of sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer.  It’s important to note that UV radiation can penetrate through clouds and can be potent even on overcast days.  The UK experiences varying levels of UV radiation throughout the year, with higher levels typically occurring between April and September.  Monitoring the daily UV index, which indicates the strength of UV radiation, can help in planning protective measures.

Risks of Sun Exposure

  • Skin Cancer: Prolonged and unprotected exposure to UV radiation increases the risk of developing skin cancers, including melanoma, which can be fatal.
  • Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke: Working in hot conditions can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke, especially during peak summer months.
  • Eye Damage: UV radiation can cause cataracts and other eye conditions, leading to impaired vision over time.

Essential Sun Safety Tips

1.    Use Sunscreen Effectively

  • SPF Selection: Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.  Broad-spectrum products protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Application: Apply sunscreen generously on all exposed skin 20 minutes before going outside.  Reapply every two hours, or more frequently if sweating heavily or after water exposure.
  • Expiration Date: Ensure the sunscreen is not expired, as it loses its effectiveness over time.

2.    Wear Protective Clothing

  • Long Sleeves and Trousers: Wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and trousers to cover as much skin as possible.
  • Hats: Use wide-brimmed hats to shield your face, neck, and ears from direct sun exposure.
  • Sunglasses: Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays.

3.    Seek Shade and Schedule Smartly

  • Shade: Take breaks in shaded areas, especially between 11 am and 3 pm when UV radiation is at its peak.
  • Work Schedules: Whenever possible, schedule outdoor tasks early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid peak sun intensity.

4.    Stay Hydrated

  • Water Intake: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.  Dehydration can exacerbate the effects of heat and sun exposure.
  • Avoid Diuretics: Limit the intake of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages as they can increase dehydration.

5.    Be Aware of Reflected UV Radiation

  • Surfaces: UV radiation can reflect off surfaces like water, sand, concrete, and metal.  This reflected UV can increase your exposure, so take extra precautions in these environments.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers have a duty of care to protect their workers from the harmful effects of sun exposure.  This includes:

  • Providing Education: Ensuring workers are aware of the risks and know how to protect themselves.
  • Offering Protective Gear: Supplying necessary protective clothing, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
  • Implementing Safe Work Practices: Adjusting work schedules and providing shaded rest areas to minimize direct sun exposure.

Sun safety is a vital aspect of health and safety for outdoor workers in the UK.  By understanding the risks and implementing protective measures, workers can significantly reduce their chances of sunburn, heat-related illnesses, and long-term skin damage.  Employers and workers alike must prioritise sun protection to ensure a safe and healthy working environment under the sun.

Stay sun safe and enjoy the benefits of working outdoors while protecting your health!  If you require any support or advice on sun safety, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0151 545 0497, or email [email protected].

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