How to Protect Your Outdoor Workers from Excessive Sun and UV Exposure
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How to Protect Your Outdoor Workers from Excessive Sun and UV Exposure

Summer may feel like a long way off, but regardless of time of year, it’s important to ensure that your outdoor employees are protected from excessive sun and UV exposure.

Up to 80% of the sun’s rays travel through light clouds, mist, and fog. In winter, more than half of the sun’s rays are reflected off the snow, increasing UV levels. The problem is worse at higher elevations.

Working outdoors puts employees at a higher risk of developing skin cancer because they are regularly exposed to the sun for long periods of time.

Adding to the danger is the fact that outdoor workers are often in the sun when its ultraviolet (UV) radiation is at its strongest, between noon and 2 p.m.

Who Is at Risk? How Can You Help?

Anyone who works in industries such agriculture or horticulture, tourism, maintenance, construction, logging and mining is at a higher risk of developing skin cancer as employees in these industries spend a significant amount of time outdoors.

As an employer there are a number of ways you can make changes to work conditions to ensure employees are protected from the harmful effects of the sun:

  • Create your own workplace policy on UV radiation using the samples and tips featured in the WellnessFits program Sun and UV Awareness module.
  • Provide shade—patio umbrellas, awnings, etc.—for any outdoor areas that employees use for breaks.
  • If you organize outdoor events for employees (e.g., golf tournaments, staff picnics) provide shaded seating and encourage safe-sun practices.
  • When you are planning work schedules and events that require your employees to be working outdoors, ensure your employees will have access to shade.
  • Use points-of-decision prompts. These are cues posted at strategic locations where individuals can make a choice about putting on sunscreen, etc. For example, place reminders to cover up on doors leading outside.

More Tips for Employees

Here are some additional sun safety tips to share with employees who work outdoors regularly. Post them in areas employees gather regularly or share them in emails or at team meetings.

  • Seek shade — from buildings, trees, canopies, etc. — as much as possible, especially during lunch and coffee breaks.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat (more than 8 cm or 3 inches). Attach a back flap to a construction helmet to cover the back of your neck and attach a visor for your face.
  • Wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. Fabrics that are made from a tightly woven fabric that don’t let light through work best. Make sure your clothing is loose and comfortable.
  • Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB protection) with an SPF of 30 or higher to all the exposed areas of your skin 20 minutes before you go outside. You should also wear a broad spectrum SPF 30 lip balm.
  • Reapply your sunscreen and lip balm as directed, or even more often if you are perspiring heavily or if you are in the water.
  • Examine your skin regularly for any unusual changes.

Interested in getting more tips and ideas for creating a healthy workplace? Visit wellnessfits.ca to learn more about a free WellnessFits small business program.

About WellnessFits

WellnessFits is delivered by the Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon, in partnership with HealthyFamilies BC. WellnessFits provides businesses with the tools and personalized support to improve employee health and reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Visit wellnessfits.ca or call 1-855-939-9355 and ask us about receiving a free workplace wellness starter kit.