Do I Need to Provide Sun Cream for Outdoor Workers?
Melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common form of cancer in the UK. The disease kills over 2,500 people each year in the UK alone and, worryingly, its incidents rates continue to rise. With Cancer Research UK reporting that an enormous 86% of cases are preventable, it’s vital employers are doing their bit to keep high risk workers safe.
UV exposure is the main preventable cause of skin cancer: many outdoor workers in industries such as construction and agriculture face an increased risk. Does that mean you should provide sun cream for your outdoor team? Let’s look at the facts.
Your Legal Requirements
The Health and Safety at Work Act makes clear there is a legal duty on every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health of their employees. This includes conducting a suitable risk assessment of the hazards to health in the workplace, including the risks from UV radiation.
Sun cream – depending on the SPF (sun protection factor) – helps protect the skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. When applied correctly, it can be a useful protection strategy against sun damage, however you shouldn’t rely on sun cream alone. Instead, sun cream should be used as part of a wider sun protection strategy for your team.
Your Sun Protection Strategy
Without other protection methods in place, sun cream alone does not provide sufficient protection for outdoor workers. A comprehensive sun protection plan includes measures to reduce exposure time and to protect workers when sun exposure is unavoidable. Your plan should include:
- Amending schedules to minimise work when the sun is at its strongest. In the UK, this is between 11am and 3pm from March to October.
- Ensuring adequate break times in a shaded area.
- Providing shading over work areas where possible.
- Providing appropriate PPE including hats, UV blocking sunglasses and long-sleeved clothing.
- Providing plenty of water stations.
- Providing high factor sun cream (SPF 30 minimum).
Sun Protection Education and Training
As well as making sure all necessary plans and equipment are in place, teams will need to be well educated about sun protection and how to use protective methods effectively. For example, do teams know that sun cream should be applied 30 minutes before exposure and reapplied every two hours? Have they been informed of the risks and signs of heat stress and dehydration?
What if My Team is Employed Through an Agency?
In industries such as construction and agriculture, it is often the case that outdoor workers may be employed through an agency. However, even if you do not employ a worker directly, whilst working on your site, both you and the agency have a legal duty to ensure the safety of that worker.
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