Many of us enjoy spending time outdoors in the sun. However, too much sunlight can be harmful to our skin and overall health, putting us at risk of sunburn and skin cancer. People who work outdoors can’t avoid sun exposure in the same way as those who work inside can so in this article we’ll look at the risks for outdoor workers and offer some practical sun protection tips to keep you safe when working outside.
Some people are at a heightened risk of skin cancer. Redheads risk skin cancer even if they don’t get sun exposure. However, for most people sun exposure if the biggest risk factor by far. This is especially true in the summer.
Outdoor workers are at particular risk from sun exposure as they typically spend more time in direct sunlight. This means that over time, their skin will be exposed to excessive amounts of sunlight, which can lead to health problems.
Examples of workers that may be at risk from sun exposure include construction workers, gardeners, agricultural workers, groundskeepers or maintenance workers, sports coaches, and people working with wildlife or animals. You’re also more at risk if you have certain characteristics that make you more likely to get sunburn or react adversely to excessive sunlight like fair or freckled skin, fair or red hair and light eyes or moles (which might be a sign of skin cancer).
Short-term problems associated with sun exposure include sunburn, which can cause uncomfortable reddening or blistering that may be sore or itchy as it begins to peel. You may also become dehydrated, which can cause fatigue, dizziness and headaches and can be serious if not treated. You can also be at increased risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke, which is a medical emergency.
There are also long-term problems from too much sun exposure. UV rays from the sun are damaging to eyes and can increase a person’s chances of developing cataracts and other eye problems. Over time, the sun will also permanently damage skin, prematurely ageing it and making it appear leathery and wrinkled. Outdoor workers may also be at an increased risk of developing skin cancer unless they take adequate precautions to protect their skin.
Here are some tips to help keep outdoor workers safe when working in the sun.
You should always wear clothing and accessories that will protect you from the sun, such as clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) as this will prevent most of the harmful rays from the sun from reaching your skin. To stay cool, resist the urge to strip off your t-shirt and instead wear long-sleeved clothing in loose, breathable fabrics. You should also wear a wide-brimmed hat as well as safety glasses to protect your eyes from potentially harmful rays from the sun.
Wearing sunscreen is one of the most important ways you can protect your skin. Choose a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection and a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor.) As a rough guide, the higher the SPF, the longer you will be able to stay outside in the sun before you burn. So, if your skin would usually turn red after 20 minutes, choosing an SPF30 sun cream would allow you to work in the sun for thirty times longer than that before burning. However, it’s important to remember that sunscreen should be reapplied regularly, particularly if you’ve been sweating.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water when working outdoors. Remember that although some drinks may initially quench your thirst, like tea, coffee, energy drinks and beer, they won’t actually hydrate you. In fact, any drink with caffeine or alcohol is dehydrating as they cause more fluids to leave your body than you take in.
It may not always be possible to stay in the shade when your job involves working outside, however, if possible moving your work to a shadier area can help avoid over-exposure to the sun, especially during the summer months and at midday when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.
Outdoor workers have to work throughout all weathers, including on hot, sunny days. Therefore it’s important that anyone working outside follows simple safety advice to minimise their risk of over-exposure to sunlight and the associated health problems.
Tagline: Outdoor workers have to take the right steps to mitigate the risks of skin cancer.