With the recent spout of hot weather and sunshine in the UK, it is important to keep your skin safe. Exposed unprotected skin can lead to sunburn which increases your risk of developing skin cancer which is the most common form of cancer in the UK with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year. There are so many sun screens and sun protectors on the market so it is important to understand what you are using and what you should be supplying as an employer if your employees work outside.
Understanding the different types of Ultraviolet (UV)
There are three different types of UV that you need to be aware of, UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA and UVB are solar rays produced by the suns radiation and penetrate the earth’s atmosphere through the ozone layer. UVC are artificial rays produced by certain electrical arcs and specialised light bulbs such as welders and sunbeds.
UV levels can be monitored and are provided by the Met Office with the daily weather forecasts. The chart helps you to identify when sun protection is required and it indicates how vulnerable skin can be. It is measured on a scale of 1-11 over 5 stages. As an employer of outdoor workers, there is a legal obligation to monitor the UV levels and ensure staff are correctly protected.
What is an employer’s legal obligation?
The Health and Safety at Work Act identifies that UV radiation should be deliberated as an occupational hazard for outdoor workers. There is a legal duty for employers to make sure that outdoor workers have access to suitable resources, training and information regarding skin protection.
It is required by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations that employers conduct suitable risk assessments to identify areas of concern or danger to employees which includes risk from UV radiation.
What are the risks of not being protected?
A study provided by Kings College London has identified that sunscreen users receive less than half the protection they think they are getting. This is a direct implication from incorrect application of sun screen. Results showed that sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50, applied in a typical way, would at best provide 40% of the expected protection. This is leading to an increase in sunburn, wrinkling, premature ageing and skin cancer. Long term skin exposure to the sun increases the chances of developing skin cancer and outdoor workers have a higher than average risk of developing it. This does not rule out other types of jobs that cause risks such as welding and delivery drivers.
You may think that as a driver that you would be protected from the harmful UV rays, however this is not always the case. It has been found that most of the glass used for vehicle windscreens and windows does not block UVA rays. That’s because UVA rays are the longer rays that penetrate in to the deeper levels of skin.
What Sun Protection Factor (SPF) should I be using and when?
The UV index indicates what the UV levels are, on a daily basis and when protection is required. When the UV index is above 2, sun protection of a minimum factor 15 is essential. When it reaches 6 or above it is essential to be using a factor 30 or 50 and at this point it is worth application of extra protection such as tightly woven clothes, sun hats and sun glasses. It is essential if you are working continuously in direct sunlight to re-apply sunscreen every 2-3 hours.
How much sunscreen should I use?
Consultant Dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk, advises that an average human should use a ‘golf ball sized blob’ of sunscreen to protect the body and half a tea spoon to cover your face, ears and neck. If you are going by the teaspoon measure, it equates to a teaspoon per leg and per arm. Aim to create a smooth layer of protection and not forgetting important parts of your body such as tops of ears and around clothing.
How can Wightman & Parrish help my business?
Wightman & Parrish offer a range of high quality sun care products to ensure you are skin safe at all times.
To set up a Wightman & Parrish account or if you have any queries or questions on how we can help to become compliant with the legal obligations within your work place, please call 01323 445001.