Sun Safety for Workers
For workers who work outside, the sun can be both an enjoyable and hazardous component of their job. It is always nice to feel the sun on a hot summer day, especially after the cold Canadian winter. There are consequences, though, for that feeling. Workers will be outside during the peak hours when sun damage can occur between 10pm and 4pm which is why sun safety for workers is so important. Precautions must be taken to avoid the various skin, eye, and other health concerns that are caused by the sun for any worker who is outside more than two hours each working day.
The most obvious health conditions that anyone who has prolonged sun exposure can face are skin conditions. The most common of course is sunburn. Sunburns are a reddening inflammation of the skin. In severe cases, blistering and peeling of the skin can occur. Sunburns can occur on any part of the body that is exposed to the sun, including the face and earlobes. The symptoms will occur within a few hours of exposure.
Skin cancer is another health concern for workers. There are two basic kinds of skin cancer. Melanoma is the rarest form, but it is also the most aggressive and most common on areas exposed to the sun, such as face and arms. Signs of melanoma include the change in appearance of moles and the pigmented areas of the skin. Non-melanoma includes two other forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. The signs of these cancers include unusual changes in the skin, such as areas that are small, raised, smooth or red, or skin that is rough red and scaly. See you doctor if you see any of these symptoms.
Some people have allergic reactions when they are exposed to sunlight. This often takes the form as a rash on skin exposed to sunlight. Other symptoms include redness, itching or pain, tiny bumps that merge into raised patches, scaling crusting or bleeding, blisters or hives. An allergic reaction to the sun is can be caused by medications, chemicals or medical conditions that cause the skin to become more sensitive, or through an inherited trait.
While skin conditions receive most of the attention for sun safety, our eyes can also be sensitive to sunlight, and not just in the summer or when the sky is clear. This is why suna safety for workers’ eyes is important to remember. Our eyes can become sunburnt if we do not take proper precautions. When eyes become sunburnt, they become gritty and painful. Exposure to UV light increases the risk for cataracts and eye cancers, although these will not develop for many years
Younger workers, such as those in their teens and twenties, are at risk for growths on the eye such as pinguecula and pterygium. Pinguecula is a yellowish patch or bump that appears near the nose. It is a change in the normal tissue that results in a deposit of protein, fat or calcium, similar to a callus o the skin. Pterygium, also known as farmer’s eye, is a triangular shaped growth of fleshy tissue on the white of the eye that will eventually cover the entire eye and if it becomes large enough, can lead to astigmatism. Both of these eye conditions can show up in workers who work long hours in the mid-day sun or in UV-intense conditions found near rivers, oceans and mountains.
Reducing Sun Hazards
The easiest way to remember how to prevent any damage from the sun is just “Put it On”. Almost all of the skin conditions can be prevent by wearing sunscreen of at least SPF 30, as well as SPF 30 lip balm. Reapply it frequently Wear a wide brimmed hat, with a brim of at least 3 inches or a back flap on your hard hat to cover the back of your neck. Wear clothing to protect your arms, legs and the back of your neck, choosing fabrics that do not let light shine through. Sunglasses that block UV light should be worn, even on cloudy days, to prevent the eye conditions. You can purchase safety glasses that provide UV protection.
If possible, seek shelter in shady areas. When working in hot weather, you need to take a rest a various intervals anyway to avoid heat related illnesses. Try to find a shaded area nearby for these breaks to occur. This is especially true between 10 am and 4 pm, when sun’s rays are at their strongest.
Working in the sun and the heat poses a risk to the health and safety of workers. By following the steps laid out here and by sources such as the Canadian Cancer Society, companies can make sun safety for workers an important part of their safety plan, and allow them to incorporate them into their daily lives. Don’t let the chance of illness ruin your time in the sun, plan to stay safe.