Making sure you’re covered against UV
It is finally that time of the year again when England has a slight glimpse of a summer. Whilst this is a joyous occurrence for sun worshippers it can become a real problem for outdoor workers.
If working outside cannot be rescheduled to be undertaken during cooler periods with the least ultraviolet effects, then other controls need to be put in place to protect workers.
Firstly, workers should cover up in the sun, wearing long loose clothing which prevents them from getting too warm but keeps the sun off the skin.
Workers need to ensure that their head, ears and neck are covered. This can be achieved by wearing a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection. If your role requires you to wear a hard hat, then you can wear one fitted with the neck covering flap at the back. Safety goggles with UV filters can be worn to protect the eyes whilst working.
Workers should be aware that the most powerful UV period is between 10am and 3pm so try to avoid too much time in the sun during these periods, come out of the sun and take breaks in shaded areas.
Applying sunscreen of SPF 30 or above is recommended for any exposed skin. It should be applied at least half an hour before you go out in the sun and should be regularly re-applied to ensure constant cover throughout the day.
An important aspect of outside work is to be skin aware. If you have any moles keep an eye on them, check them regularly for any changes and report changes to your doctor as soon as you can.
During sunny weather also ensure you keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty or water and being aware of the weather forecast’s UV index. A UV Index of 3-11 is where most care should be taken, with higher figures in this bracket needing more precautions.
I recently took part in the Hulls Race for Life event. This was a 5K run to raise money for cancer research but was undertaken on a gloriously sunny day. I had my water with me to keep hydrated and had applied sunscreen vigorously before the event to stop me from burning, however due to the high level of UV rays and the temperature the event was not the best.
I have taken part in the race for life for the last 9 years and this was the worst one for a while due to the conditions. There was no breeze and even though I had my hat, sunglasses and sun cream on I still burned slightly. It was due to the heat that I felt more exhausted than usual at one of these events. It hit a lot of people and there were more medics around offering support for those suffering from heat related issues during the race.
This race lasted a gruelling 49 minutes for myself (almost 20 minutes longer than last year which was a cloudy, slightly rainy day) but even during this short time I felt the effects of the event more than usual. I was not exactly running the event, more of a quick walk really due to the heat, but imagine working on a construction site constantly on the go for the full day in such temperatures, workers will quickly feel drained and exhausted, leading to decreased concentration and increased accidents.
So during sunnier weather ensure you are covered up and protected from the sun, keep hydrated and if you notice any changes in moles or your skin, go see your doctor immediately, better safe than sorry.
For more information on preventing work-related cancer please see the IOSH “No Time to Lose” campaign at www.notimetolose.org.uk
By Emma Wiles