Sun Safety in the Workplace: Protecting Your Employees

As the sun shines brightly during the summer months, many employees find themselves working outdoors, exposing themselves to the sun’s harmful rays. While outdoor work can be rewarding, it also poses potential risks to employee health and well-being. Employers have a crucial role in ensuring the safety and protection of their workers in the sun.

Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to various health issues, including sunburn, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and an increased risk of skin cancer. Outdoor workers are particularly susceptible to these risks due to their extended time spent under the sun’s rays.

Here are some precuations which can be taken.

Establish a Sun Safety Policy: Employers should create and implement a comprehensive sun safety policy that outlines guidelines, procedures, and expectations for outdoor work. This policy should include information on sun protection measures, work-rest schedules, and employee training on recognizing the signs of heat-related illnesses.

Provide Adequate Training: Employers should ensure that all employees receive training on the importance of sun safety and are educated on the risks associated with prolonged sun exposure. Training sessions such as tool box talks should cover topics such as the proper use of sun protection measures, recognizing the signs of heat-related illnesses, and knowing when to seek medical attention.

Sun Protection Measures: Employers should provide adequate sun protection equipment and encourage its use. This could include supplying sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF), wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, and sunglasses. Ensure employees have access to shaded areas or provide temporary shelters such as a gazebo for breaks.

Regular breaks: Allow employees to take regular breaks in shaded areas throughout the day. These breaks should be scheduled during the hottest parts of the day, typically between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Employers should encourage employees to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the workday.

Conduct Regular Risk Assessments: You should regularly assess the risks associated with outdoor work and adjust safety measures accordingly. Factors to consider include weather conditions, temperature, humidity, and the duration and intensity of sun exposure. Risk assessments should be conducted in collaboration with employees to ensure a comprehensive approach to sun safety.

Communication: Create an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting any concerns related to sun safety. Encourage open communication and provide channels for employees to voice their questions, suggestions, or health issues. Promptly address any reported concerns and take appropriate action to resolve them.


HSE resources for working in the sun

British Skin Foundation

The UV index and sunburn risk

The UV index tells us how strong the sun’s UV rays are and when we might be at risk of burning. The higher the value, the greater the risk of sunburn and the less time it takes to damage your skin.

When the UV Index is 3 or more, the sun is strong enough to cause damage for some skin types so take care and protect your skin, especially if you burn easily.

Think about protecting your skin by:

  • Spending time in the shade – take a break under an umbrella, tree, or head inside.
  • Covering up – wear loose clothing with a wide brimmed hat and UV protection sunglasses.
  • Using Sunscreen – on bits that you can’t cover with clothes or shade. Use plenty with at least SPF15 and 4 or 5 stars, and reapply regularly.

Hayfever medication

It is improtant to be aware of potential side effects of hayfever medicatins, either prescribed or over the counter. Different medications may have side effects, and individuals may react differently to them.

Some common side effects of hay fever medications can include drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, and headaches. Some medications, such as certain antihistamines, may cause drowsiness and impair the ability to drive or operate machinery. It is important to be aware of such warnings and take appropriate precautions.

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