Working Outdoors? Don’t Forget These Important Work Safety Tips!

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We’re all told from a young age that spending too much time in the sun does more harm than good. Not only does it lead to painful sunburn, but any skin damage can increase one’s risk of developing skin cancer. Unfortunately as we grow older sunscreen ceases to be a daily summer necessity.

One expert said during an interview for, “One bottle [of sunscreen] should not last a summer.” And yet numbers indicate that may be exactly what’s happening. Studies have confirmed that too many people forget to use sunscreen, with 31% of Americans not using suncreen at all and a total of 69% using it “occasionally”. Which begs the question – what can be done to help individuals working outdoors?

Seeing as skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, it’s not easy to judge exactly how much an outdoor job contributes to an individual’s risk of developing skin cancer. However, working outdoors can definitely contribute to an individual’s risk. According to OSHA, “Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer. The amount of damage from UV exposure depends on the strength of the light, the length of exposure, and whether the skin is protected.”

With that in mind, both employers and employees need to take steps to help reduce sun-related work safety hazards around worksites, as well as encourage the people they work with to take the time to protect themselves. The following are the recommendations laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Recommendations for Employers

Employers should take the following steps to protect workers from exposure to UV radiation:

  • When possible, avoid scheduling outdoor work when sunlight exposure is the greatest
  • Provide shaded or indoor break areas
  • Provide training to workers about UV radiation including:

               –Their risk of exposure

               –How to prevent exposure

               –The signs and symptoms of overexposure

Recommendations for Workers

Workers should follow these recommendations to protect themselves from UV damage:

  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15.

               –SPF refers to the amount of time that persons will be protected from a burn. An SPF of 15 will allow a person to stay out in the sun 15 times longer than they normally would be able to stay without burning. The SPF rating applies to skin reddening and protection against UVB exposure.

               –SPF does not refer to protection against UVA. Products containing Mexoryl, Parsol 1789, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone block UVA rays.

               –Sunscreen performance is affected by wind, humidity, perspiration, and proper application.

  • Old sunscreens should be thrown away because they lose their potency after 1-2 years.
  • Sunscreens should be liberally applied (a minimum of 1 ounce) at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.

               –Special attention should be given to covering the ears, scalp, lips, neck, tops of feet, and backs of hands.

  • Sunscreens should be reapplied at least every 2 hours and each time a person gets out of the water or perspires heavily.

               –Some sunscreens may also lose efficacy when applied with insect repellents, necessitating more frequent application when the two products are used together.

  • Follow the application directions on the sunscreen bottle.
  • Another effective way to prevent sunburn is by wearing appropriate clothing.

               –Dark clothing with a tight weave is more protective than light-colored, loosely woven clothing.

               –High-SPF clothing has been developed to provide more protection for those with photosensitive skin or a history of skin cancer.

  • Workers should also wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with almost 100% UV protection and with side panels to prevent excessive sun exposure to the eyes.

For more information about skin cancer and how to prevent and recognize it, visit the CDC’s and OSHA’s websites, which contain lots of information individuals can use to address this issue.

Are you exposed to sunlight regularly at your job? Does your worksite implement these safety features? Let us know in the comments!