Although many of us aim to get some colour during the Summer months, a tan is actually a sign of skin damage; this damage can then led lead to other issues, some that can be serious.
For outdoor workers, prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to serious skin damage and other sun-related illnesses. This article aims to outline everything you need to know about sun protection so that both workers and their employers can keep themselves (and their skin) as safe as possible while at work.
Who is most at risk?
Before we can talk about the why we need to talk about the who.
We’ve already mentioned that outdoor workers are more at risk of sun-related illnesses, such as farm or construction workers, as they spend much more time exposed to the sun. However, you can also be more at risk due to the type of skin that you have.
Take particular care if you have:
- fair or freckled skin that burns or turns red before it tans
- red or fair hair and light coloured eyes
- a large number of moles
- a family history of skin cancer.
Why you need to protect your skin at work
Although the sun is important for our overall health and mood, too much sunlight can be harmful, especially to our skin.
In the short term, the sun can cause:
While these effects may seem mild, every time you burn your skin, it doesn’t completely re-heal.
If you burn multiple times or you are exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun in the long term, this can lead to more serious problems such as:
- accelerated ageing of the skin
- heat-related illnesses (heat stroke etc)
- skin cancer
Sun-Related illnesses are serious
The most serious effect of prolonged exposure to the sun when you don’t protect your skin is an increased chance of developing skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year. While the majority of cases can be treated and cured, people still die of skin cancer today, especially if the cancer is malignant and the cells break away from the skin to develop a secondary tumour elsewhere in the body.
As well as cancer itself, long-term exposure to the sun can cause other serious issues such as heat stress.
Heat stress is when the body is unable to regulate its own core body heat anymore, by losing heat through sweating, as the temperature has risen to critical levels. This is a medical emergency as it can lead to cramps, exhaustion, stroke, and in severe cases, death.
Protect yourself and your employees!
Skin damage, heat illnesses and skin cancer are all preventable if you just protect yourself. Employers need to be providing mandatory breaks or recovery periods in shaded areas and employees need to be making sure that they dress appropriately and wear sun cream at all times. When it comes to your health and safety, nothing should be compromised.
Need more help with other occupational hazards?
ActiveHSE provides many publications and resources on Health and Safety, including policy log books and checklists that can be tailored to your business. If you need any advice or guidance on which ones you need, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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