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Solar Radiation and Outdoor Workers

Exposure to solar radiation from the sun (ultra-violet) can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering, skin ageing and in the long term can lead to skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year. UV radiation is an occupational hazard for people who work outdoors.

People with pale skin are most at risk of skin damage, especially those with fair or red hair, with lots of freckles or with a family history of skin cancer. People with brown or black skin are at low risk but people of all skin colours can suffer from overheating and dehydration.

A skin protection six-point code for employees and others exposed to sun should be followed.

  • Skin should be kept covered. Clothing forms a barrier to the sun’s harmful rays – especially tightly woven fabrics.
  • A hat should be worn - with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck, areas which can easily get sun burnt.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, during work breaks and especially at lunch time.
  • A sunscreen of at least sun protection factor 15 (SPF15) should be used on any exposed skin. Apply as directed on the product.
  • Plenty of water should be drunk to avoid dehydration.
  • Skin should be regularly checked for unusual moles or spots. A doctor should be consulted if anything is found that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding.

Managers of employees whose work involves outdoor activities must provide the following:-

  • Give advice on sun protection in routine health and safety training.
  • Inform workers that a tan is not healthy – it is a sign that skin has already been damaged by the sun.
  • Encourage workers to keep covered up during the summer months – especially at lunch time when the sun is hottest.
  • Encourage workers to use sunscreen of at least SPF15 on any part of the body they can’t cover up and to apply it as directed on the product.
  • Encourage workers to take their breaks in the shade, if possible.