Many workers say that worrying about their skin doesn’t rank very high on their list of priorities. But those who spend all or even part of their workday outdoors are at risk for skin cancer as a result of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR).
Working around reflective or hot surfaces and equipment compounds the danger of overexposure to the sun. The most dangerous time of the day is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.
What your employees need to do for UV protection
Avoiding the sun may seem like the easiest solution, but when work needs to be completed outdoors, it’s not a viable option. If your employees need to be outside, have them follow these steps:
Use sunscreen. Not just any kind, but one with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. The American Cancer Society recommends applying sunscreen to all body surfaces not covered with hair, a hat, or clothing, about 20 minutes before going outside. If you perspire heavily or work around water, use a waterproof sunscreen and reapply periodically.
Cover exposed areas. Sweltering temperatures can lure workers into unsafe sun behavior. Many workers complain that it’s too hot to wear pants and long-sleeved shirts. Instead, they choose shorts, tank tops, or go shirtless. The body of the less-dressed becomes a target for the burning sun. To help prevent burning, wear lightweight, tightly woven, opaque clothing.
Wear a wide-brimmed safety hat. This protects your head and face from direct sunlight. It should protect the ears, neck, temples, and lower face. A bandana worn around the neck provides further protection.
Wear sunglasses. Outdoor workers often overlook UVR damage to the eyes, yet the eyes are six times more sensitive than skin to ultraviolet radiation. Sunglasses or other protective eyewear is a must. Ultraviolet light increases the risk of cataracts and photokeratitis (inflammation of the cornea). Make sure employees wear sunglasses that block out UVR rays. This type of protection is particularly important if working around water.
What to cover at your safety meeting
While many workers may not rank taking care of their skin as a top priority, take the time during your safety meeting to remind them of the risk of skin cancer. Additional steps include:
- Explain why sunscreen is needed and why they should use an SPF of at least 30.
- Have sunscreen available and let your employees know where to keep it. Remind employees to reapply throughout the day.
- Also discuss the appropriate clothing and the importance of wearing hats and sunglasses to further minimize UV exposure.
And while the sun’s rays are strongest in the spring and summer, employees are actually at risk throughout the year. Clouds, wind, or other weather conditions, and shiny or reflective surfaces like water or metal, can intensify the sun’s ability to burn the skin. By paying attention to the day’s sun forecast and taking the appropriate precautions, your workers can reduce their exposure to UV radiation.
Questions, Comments or Suggestions?
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The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.
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