Sun safety in the workplace: protecting your employees

Sun safety in the workplace: protecting your employees

Sun safety in the workplace: protecting your employees

As summer arrives, the UK enjoys longer days, warmer weather, and much-anticipated sunshine. While it’s wonderful to enjoy the great outdoors, it’s crucial to remember that increased sun exposure comes with risks. This guide will help you, as an employer, ensure the sun safety in the workplace by protecting your employees from harmful UV rays and reducing the risk of skin cancer.

Understanding UV Radiation

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is a major cause of skin damage. Even in the often cloudy UK, high UV levels can occur, especially during summer months. UV radiation is classified into three types:

  • UVA: Causes ageing and wrinkles, and is thought to be a factor in some skin cancers.
  • UVB: Can destroy the top layers of the skin and is responsible for most skin cancers.
  • UVC: Absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and does not reach the surface.
sun safety in the workplace risks

Risks of Sun Exposure

Prolonged sun exposure without appropriate sun safety in the workplace can lead to:

Sunburn

Description: Painful red skin that can peel and blister, resulting from overexposure to UV radiation.

Impact: Causes discomfort, reduces employee productivity, and can lead to long-term skin damage.

Heat Exhaustion

Description: A condition resulting from excessive heat exposure, characterised by heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and fainting.

Impact: Can lead to heatstroke if not treated promptly, posing life-threatening health risks to employees.

Heatstroke

Description: A severe form of heat illness where the body’s temperature regulation fails, leading to a rapid increase in body temperature, confusion, seizures, and loss of consciousness.

Impact: Requires immediate medical attention and can be fatal if not treated.

Premature Ageing

Description: Long-term UV exposure leading to wrinkles, leathery skin, and age spots.

Impact: While primarily a cosmetic concern, it signifies cumulative skin damage over time.

Skin Cancer

Description: The most serious risk of prolonged sun exposure, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Impact: Can be life-threatening if not detected and treated early, with significant health and productivity implications for employees.

sun safety in the workplace tips

Essential Tips for Sun Safety in the Workplace

Implement a Policy for Sun Safety in the Workplace

  • Details: Develop and enforce a comprehensive sun safety policy that outlines the company’s commitment to protecting employees from sun and heat exposure.
  • Actions: Include guidelines on sunscreen use, protective clothing, and hydration. Communicate this policy clearly to all employees.

Provide Sunscreen:

  • Details: Supply broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher in common areas and encourage its regular use.
  • Actions: Educate employees on how to apply sunscreen properly and the importance of reapplication every two hours, or more frequently if sweating or swimming.

Offer Protective Clothing:

  • Details: Recommend and, if possible, provide lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Actions: Ensure that protective clothing is comfortable and suitable for the work environment to encourage consistent use.
sun safety in the workplace shade

Create Shaded Areas:

  • Details: Set up shaded rest areas for employees working outdoors to reduce direct sun exposure.
  • Actions: Use tents, umbrellas, or canopies to provide relief from the sun during breaks. Encourage employees to take breaks in these shaded areas, especially during peak sun hours (11am to 3pm).

Adjust Work Schedules:

  • Details: Modify work hours to minimise exposure during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Actions: Implement early morning or late afternoon shifts, rotating work schedules to limit the time each employee spends in the sun.

Encourage Hydration:

  • Details: Promote regular hydration by providing easy access to water.
  • Actions: Install water stations throughout the workplace, distribute reusable water bottles, and remind employees to drink water frequently. Monitor hydration levels and educate employees on the signs of dehydration.

Conduct Training and Education on Sun Safety in the Workplace:

  • Details: Offer training sessions on the dangers of sun and heat exposure and the best practices for staying safe.
  • Actions: Include information on recognising the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, the importance of regular hydration, and the correct use of sun protection measures.

Monitor Employee Health:

  • Details: Implement procedures for monitoring employees’ health during hot weather.
  • Actions: Designate supervisors to check on employees regularly, looking for signs of heat-related illnesses. Provide first aid training specific to sun and heat exposure.
sun safety in the workplace monitoring

Promote a Culture of Safety:

  • Details: Foster an organisational culture that prioritises employee health and safety.
  • Actions: Encourage open communication about heat and sun safety, making it easy for employees to voice concerns and suggest improvements.

Use Technology:

  • Details: Utilise apps and tools to monitor UV index and weather forecasts.
  • Actions: Share daily UV index readings and weather updates with employees to help them plan and take necessary precautions.

Debunking Sun Safety in the Workplace Myths

Myth: ‘I don’t need sunscreen because I have dark skin.’
Fact: Darker skin can still suffer damage and develop skin cancer.

Myth: ‘I only need sunscreen on sunny days.’
Fact: UV rays can penetrate clouds, so protection is needed even on overcast days.

Myth: ‘A base tan protects against sunburn.’
Fact: Any tan is a sign of skin damage and does not protect against further UV exposure.

Sun Safety in the Workplace Resources

NHS Sun Safety Advice

Cancer Research UK: Sun Safety

By following these sun safety in the workplace tips, you can help protect your employees’ skin and reduce their risk of sun-related health issues. Stay safe, enjoy the sunshine responsibly, and make the most of the beautiful British summer while ensuring a safe workplace.

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