Staying safe when working in the sun

Working in construction can mean you’re exposed to the sun for hours on end and if you’re not careful you could end up doing serious damage to your skin. Being exposed to UV light can lead to sunburn in the short term, which whilst painful will pass within a few days or weeks but in the long term being exposed to UV light without protection can lead to conditions such as skin cancer.

Damage to your skin is not the only risk when working in warm conditions. Being exposed to the heat for long durations can also lead to other issues such as dehydration which can lead to feeling unwell or fainting.

Who is most at risk?

Everyone is at risk of sunburn, heat stress or potentially skin cancer in the long term.

Despite that, there are those who are more likely to suffer from the sun than other. Those who have fair skin, freckles, red or fair hair and workers with a large number of moles are more at risk of developing skin conditions from prolonged sun exposure.

Sun cream:

The best and most common way to avoid damaging your skin is to use sun cream. If you’re being exposed to sunlight all day wearing sun cream is the best way to avoid sun burn and in the long term avoid issues such as skin cancer. Make sure you’re using the correct level of protection for your skin and the strength of the UV light on any particular day and ask others to help apply sun to areas such as your back if necessary.

Break in the shade:

In the UK you are legally entitled to an uninterrupted 20-minute break if you work for 6 hours or more per day, we suggest using this time to get some shade to help reduce the risk of damaging your skin. Having a short break or lunch break in the shade is a really easy way to give you skin a rest, especially at lunchtime (1 PM-3 PM) when the sun’s rays are at their peak.

Drink plenty of water:

Being exposed to warm temperatures and sunlight all day will likely mean your body is going to sweat to keep you cool, this will mean that you’re losing lots of fluid and it is incredibly important to replenish fluid lost. Making sure you’re drinking plenty of water is going to help keep you cool and avoid things such as dehydration.

For more information on how you can stay safe when working in the sun, check out this leaflet from HSE.