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Sun Safety - Outdoor Workers

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Northern Ireland, and incidence rates are still rising, with outdoor workers being particularly at high risk. Too much exposure from UV radiation from the sun can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering, skin ageing and in the long term could lead to skin cancer. Those with a family history of skin cancer, those with fair, red hair or freckled skin and those that have a large number of moles are most at risk.
 
This guidance provides some practical advice for employers on reducing the risk of ill health to workers caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight. Employers should include sun protection advice in routine health and safety training and sun safety must be considered as part of the businesses risk assessment process.
 
Check the UV index
 
In N.Ireland the UV index peaks each day between 11am -3pm. If the index is at three or above, then inform relevant workers and ensure protective measures are in place to minimise exposure.Regularly swap job tasks between workers to make sure employees can spend some time in the shade.
 
Use shade
 
Stay in the shade whenever possible especially during breaks. Shade can cut UV exposure by 50% or more.
 
Wear the correct clothing 
 

When working outdoors during months with high UV levels, you’ll need to check the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating and make sure the design of the clothing fits the job. Keep your top on. Wear wide-brimmed hats that shade the face, head, ears and neck or if safety helmets are worn, use those fitted with neck flaps. Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection or use UV-filtering safety goggles if the work means eye protection is needed. Look for the ‘UV 400’ marking. Ensure to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
 
Use high-factor sunscreen
 
Sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and a UVA rating of four or five stars. Sunscreen should only be used alongside other protective measures – it’s best not to rely on sunscreen alone. Sunscreen should be applied generously and reapplied often.
 
Encourage workers to check their skin
 
Detecting the early signs of skin cancer and undergoing early treatment can save lives. Watch for symptoms that include the appearance of moles or spots, changes to the size, shape or colours of moles and spots or if they itch or bleed, seek medical advice.