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Keep outdoor workers safe in the sun

Raining one minute, sunny the next … yes, it’s definitely a British summer we’re experiencing. But, with the (unpredictable) summer weather exposing outdoor workers to varying weather conditions, it can be easy to forget that they are still at risk of sun damage.

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Raining one minute, sunny the next … yes, it's definitely a very British summer we're experiencing. But, with the (unpredictable) summer weather exposing outdoor workers to varying weather conditions, it can be easy to forget that they are still at risk of sun damage. Read this guide to keeping your employees healthy in the summer sun. What is the problem? Too much sunlight is harmful to the skin. If skin has gone red in the sun, it's sunburnt and if has tanned, this is still a sign that the skin has been damaged. The damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight. UV rays are invisible and cannot be felt on the skin (the heat of the sun comes from infrared rays instead). UV rays penetrate deeply into our cells, causing changes that lead to sunburn, skin ageing, eye damage and skin cancer. Your responsibilities as an employer If you are an employer responsible for people whose work keeps them outside for most of the day, you should treat UV radiation as any other occupational hazard and try to reduce the health risks for your employees when they are working in the sun. Although there is no legal obligation for you to provide information or protective clothing and equipment in relation to this matter, benefits of doing so can include fewer days absence due to illnesses caused by sun, a healthier and better-informed workforce and reduced risk to employees of skin cancer from long-term sun exposure. You should include sun protection advice in routine health and safety training and encourage workers to keep covered up during the summer months - especially at lunch time when the sun is at its hottest. Who is at risk? If workers are outdoors for a long time, their skin could be exposed to more sun than is healthy. On average, outdoor workers receive three to four times more UV exposure each year than people who work indoors. Workers should also take special care if they have: Fair or freckled skin that doesn't tan, or goes red or burns before it tans; Red or fair hair and light coloured eyes; A large number of moles. What can you do to protect employees from the effects of the sun? Encourage workers to keep tops on and wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck Encourage them to stay in the shade whenever possible, during breaks and especially when the sun is at its most intense (between 11.00 am and 3.00 pm) – consider scheduling work to minimise exposure Encourage them to use a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF15 or higher on any exposed skin Encourage workers to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration Encourage workers to check skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots Keep your workers informed about the dangers of sun exposure. Further information is available in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) leaflet ‘Keep your top on', which can be downloaded here.

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