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Working in the Sun - steps employers should take

By Peninsula HR

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Too much sunlight is harmful to skin. The damage is cause by ultra-violet rays in sunlight and a tan is a sign of skin damage. Where employees are required to work outdoors in the sun for most of the day their employer must consider the risks and take reasonably practicable steps to reduce the risks.

Anyone who works in the sun is at risk but those with pale skin, red or fair hair, and lots of freckles are at high risk. Those with a family history of skin cancer are at greatest risk. People with brown or black skin are at low risk but people of all skin colours can become dehydrated and suffer from heat exhaustion.

Reasonably practicable steps that employers can take to reduce the risks will include;

  • Explaining the hazard, risks and precautions as part of routine health and safety training; maybe reiterating it in early summer tool-box talks.
  • Encouraging your workforce to keep covered up through the summer, especially during the mid-day sum when the sun at its strongest. The Health and Safety Executive suggests wearing a long sleeved shirt and a hat with a brim to protect ears and neck.
  • Encouraging workers to use a sunscreen on exposed parts; use SPF15 or higher.
  • Suggesting that workers should take their breaks in the shade rather than staying out in direct sunlight. Site water points and rest areas in the shade.
  • Rescheduling work to avoid working in direct sunlight during the middle of the day.
  • Encouraging workers to drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
  • Asking workers to regularly check their skin for unusual spots or moles that have changed seeking medical advice if changes are noticed or they are itching or bleeding.

This isn’t a particularly onerous task list. Follow these steps and you’ll satisfy the enforcing authorities that you do are taking sensible and reasonably practicable action to meet your statutory duties. Other benefits will also accrue;

  • Less absence due to sunburn.
  • A healthier and better informed workforce
  • Reduced risk to employees of skin cancer from long term exposure to sunlight.
Published May 2015