May 28, 2015

Sun, Sea and Suspicious Safety Policies

Summer is almost upon us and we can all enjoy hot sunny weather… but beware it has its dangers.

During a prolonged heat wave there are health risks. The very young, the elderly and the seriously ill are groups who become particularly at risk with health related problems (sun stroke, dehydration).

“In the 2003 heat wave, there were 2,000 to 3,000 excess deaths [more than usual] in England. Across Europe, there were around 30,000 excess deaths.” 

If you are an employer or responsible for external working staff at risk associated with temperature, direct sunlight and working outdoors for a long period of time your skin could be exposed to more sunlight than is healthy for you. UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for people who work outdoors. Some staff may be more at risk then others, for example;

  • farm or construction workers, market gardeners, street cleaners, street vendors etc., or
  • those with a particular characteristic, including;
    • Fair skinned, red haired;
    • People with freckles;
    • Skin that doesn’t tan, or goes red or burns before it tans, may be more at risk.

The skin easily burns from prolonged sun exposure, people with large number of moles or skin conditions, should carry out regular skin checks and where there are changes obtain medical advice.

Blisters or peels give rise for concern as the sun speeds up ageing of the skin.

But all external workers should take care to avoid sun glare damaging the eyes, overheating and dehydration during hot sunny days.

It is the long term effects of exposure that an employer should consider, what protection can you provide to protect staff now?

The hardest thing will be to remind staff that a tan is evidence of damage to skin and the need to wearing suitable light clothing which covers exposed limbs.

  • Suggest clothing – cover up with a long-sleeved shirt, and a hat with a brim or flap that protects the ears and neck.
  • The use of sun protection, for example creams suitable for skin type at least SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 15 on any part of the body where they can not cover with clothing and remember to follow manufactures instruction for application.
  • Where break time / lunch is to be taken do so in shaded area.
  • Remind staff to take plenty of water / drinks.
  • Personal regular skin checks to identify unusual spots or moles that change size, shape or colour and to seek medical advice promptly.
  • Take staff views into account when introducing any new sun safety initiatives.

There are many benefits to a summer sun temperature procedure:

  • It can help reduce absence from work, from sunburn-heat related sickness.
  • A better informed workforce on sun related concerns/ risk of skin cancer from long-term sun exposure.

 Protection procedure

  • Keep your skin covered
  • Wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck.
  • Stay in the shade where possible during your breaks and especially at lunch time.
  • Use sun screen at least SPF15 on any exposed skin.
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration heat stroke
  • Regular skin checks
  • Pale skins are most at risk of skin damage,

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About the author

Stacey Rowe