Sun Safety in the Workplace: The 5 S’s

Did you know that up to 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by prolonged or intense exposure to the sun? Outdoor workers spend more time exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and so are at greater risk of sun damage and skin cancers. With this in mind, The Five S’s of Sun Safety can guide you in safeguarding your employees:


 Slip on sun-protective clothing
• Clothing can be one of the most effective barriers between our skin and the sun.
• Clothing should cover as much skin as possible.
• Always cover shoulders, which burn easily.
• A tighter weave provide most protection.
• A high Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF)-rated fabric offers best protection.

Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen
• Always use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more, and preferably water-resistant.
• Make sure sunscreen is broad-spectrum and carries a UVA symbol or minimum 4-star rating.
• Take sunscreen to work; store in an accessible, cool place; and remember to check the expiration date.
• For outdoor work, apply a generous amount to clean, dry, exposed skin.
• Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors and preferably once again while outdoors.
• All sunscreens should be reapplied at least every two hours — more if perspiring heavily or after toweling dry.
• Remember to protect your lips with an SPF 30+ lip balm.

Slap on a sun hat
• Always wear a hat with a wide brim that shades the face, neck and ears.
• A close weave or UPF-rated fabric will provide best protection.
• Legionnaire (with a flap that covers the neck and joins the front peak) or bucket-style hats (with minimum 7.5cm brim) are most effective. Hard hats can be fitted with a sun peak and flap.

Slide on quality sunglasses
• Solar UV radiation can be damaging to the eyes, so it’s important to wear quality sunglasses.
• Protection depends on the quality of the lens and overall design.
• Sunglasses labeled with a high EPF (which ranges from 1-10) will offer best protection.
• Ensure they are close-fitting and wrap around to prevent solar UVR from entering the sides and top.

Shade from the sun whenever possible
• Shade can provide a good barrier between our skin and the sun.
• Seek shade whenever possible, particularly at the hottest times of the day between, 11a.m. and 3 p.m., when UV penetration is strongest.
• Move outside jobs inside or to shady locations when possible.
• Erect a temporary shelter or seek out the shade of trees or buildings when possible.
• Try to plan to complete outdoor jobs in the morning before 11 am or after 3 p.m., avoiding the hours of greatest sun intensity.
• Never rely on shade alone; always combine with personal protection measures.

Remember that UV radiation from the sun bounces off water, sand, concrete, light-colored surfaces and snow. These surfaces can considerably increase the strength of the sun’s damaging rays, so employees who work in these areas should exercise extra care.

Guard outdoor workers against exposure to substances that can increase the harmful effects of UV radiation. These substances include industrial chemicals such as asphalt and diphenyls (e.g., fungicides and pesticides), as well as certain medications (e.g., anti-inflammatories and antibiotics). Workers near these substances should exercise caution. A water-resistant sunscreen can protect the skin when contact with such substances is likely.

Is your workplace sun-safe?
We know that more than 80 percent of skin cancer cases are caused by overexposure to UV, so this hazard is largely preventable! Education about the prevention and early detection of this disease should be a priority for all organizations.

*This post is provided by: Pinnacol Assurance
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