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    Working safely in the sun

    It is no news that this summer has been one of the hottest and sunniest for a long time, and it is essential to think about working safely in the sun.  As it is now a sunnier time of year, those who (control) work outside should think about working safely in the sun. When working outdoors the effects of the weather in this environment can potentially have a very serious impact on an employee’s welfare if the risks have never been previously considered or managed properly. This impact may be immediate or it can occur over a long time period of time.  Exposure to the sun can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering and skin ageing and in the long term can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK with over 50,000 new cases every year.

    Each year many people suffer, unnecessarily, from sunburn and over 2300 people die from skin cancer caused by sun exposure.

    What are the dangers of working in the sun?

    In the short term  …  sunburn can blister your skin and make it peel, but even mild reddening is a sign of skin damage.
    In the long term  …  too much sun will speed up the ageing of your skin, making it leathery, mottled and wrinkled, but the most serious effect is an increased chance of developing skin cancer.
    Abnormal reactions to sunlight …  Some medicines, contact with some chemicals used at work (such as dyes, wood preservatives, coal-tar and pitch products), and contact with some plants, can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Your works doctor or family doctor should be able to advise you further.

    Who is at risk (or at higher risk) of skin cancer?

    Some people are more liable to skin cancers than others. People with white skin are at most risk. Take particular care if you have:

    While it is considered that workers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean origin are less at risk, they should still take care in the sun to avoid damage to eyes, skin ageing and dehydration.

    Working safely in the sun – What can you do to protect your Staff?

    Working safely in the sun – What can your employees do to protect themselves?

    Link to the HSE leaflet: Sun Protection

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    Michael acted as health and safety training consultant on Croner’s Health and Safety Training Resource, and also contributed a number of updates and in-depth articles to other publications, all to a high standard. Experienced and helpful, and always a pleasure to work with.

    Tim Gilpin, Croner (Wolters Kluwer), Kingston-upon-Thames

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