Home Health & Wellness As a Third of Workers Never Wear Sunscreen, Expert Shares Guidance for Working Outdoors This Summer

As a Third of Workers Never Wear Sunscreen, Expert Shares Guidance for Working Outdoors This Summer

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As the weather improves and summer approaches, those working outside should aim to stay safe when working outdoors in the sun. As a recent study found 1 in 3 workers neglect to use any sunscreen when working outside, health and safety experts at Horizon Platforms wanted to raise awareness of the health risks linked to working outside in the sun and advise both employers and employees on precautions they can take.

Ben Hughes training and compliance manager from Horizon Platforms shared the below said: “In the sun it can be easy to lose track of time and unknowingly expose yourself to health risks. If you are required to work outside for work, it is your employer’s responsibility to mitigate risks and provide support.

“While there is no legal working temperature, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, states that business owners are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of everyone on their site. Employers should take responsibility for ensuring their staff’s well-being during hot weather.”

Heat-related include:

Skin damage and sunburn

Being burned by the sun can vary in severity, going from mild sun damage to potentially developing skin cancer. Working under the sun causes 1 in 3 deaths from non-melanoma skin cancer, according to the WHO and ILO. Damage from prolonged sun exposure could include blisters, moles or rough textured skin. Damage from the sun not only increases your risk of diseases like cancer, you are also prone to premature ageing and skin peeling. Regular self-checks are essential. Look out for unusual moles or spots – changes in shape, size, colour, itching, or bleeding – and seek medical attention promptly.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke

According to the UK government, there were 2,985 deaths associated with extremely hot temperatures from the summer of 2022 Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are both outcomes from spending time in extreme temperatures from hot climates. There are distinct differences, heatstroke is the less common of the two but more serious when it occurs. Heatstroke happens when the body can no longer regulate its own temperature, this leads to rapid temperature rise which can rise to over 40 degrees celsius. Heatstroke usually happens from longer amounts of time spent in the sun and can be dangerous. Heat exhaustion is less severe but still causes illness, it occurs when body temperature rises and salt or water is lost from the body. Heat exhaustion symptoms include: tiredness, dizziness, headaches, sweating, intense thirst, fast pulse.

Dehydration

Dehydration affects everyone, whether working indoors or outdoors. Dehydration is when your body loses more fluid than it is taking in and can be caused by the sun’s heat causing fluid loss. Symptoms of dehydration include: thirst, dark coloured urine, tiredness, dizziness, dry mouth and urinating less frequently. If you work a manual job, the exertion of energy in your job can increase your risk of dehydration in addition to working in the sun. Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking more water than usual when working in hot conditions.

Eye damage

The damage the sun can do to our eyes can often be overlooked but is important to be aware of. UV rays from the sun can be extremely harmful to our sight, potentially leading to corneal sunburn (photokeratitis) or cataracts. You should never look directly at the sun, although damage can also be caused when not looking directly. Employees who work outside should wear protective hats which cover most of the neck, wide-brimmed hats work well, as does using neck protectors when wearing hard hats. Sunglasses should also be worn where possible, it is important to use sunglasses with the appropriate level of UV protection. If site or safety rules dictate the use of safety glasses, using ones with the right UV protection is advised. Proper sunglasses list the category level of protection they offer so you can find the right ones before purchasing.

Employers should also provide sunscreen to workers or ensure they have access to it to prevent skin damage. SPF30 or above is recommended and you should go for a higher SPF if you have fairer skin. Employers of those working in the sun should make sure their staff have regular breaks to reduce prolonged sun exposure and set up shaded areas to take breaks if indoor spaces are not available. Uniforms should also be adaptable for different weather conditions, employers should make sure workers have access to light and breathable clothing options to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion or sunburn.”

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