Sun and Heat Protection

Not only is it a safe practice to protect your workers from the sun, it is also becoming a workers' compensation issue and an area for possible lawsuits. OSHA has cited employers under standards 29 CFR 1910.132(a) and 1925.28(a) for not providing their workers adequate sun protection.

Click the links below to learn more about sun protection, heat stress prevention and skin cancer.

Sun and Heat Protection

1. SPF & Broad Spectrum Protection
2. Tips to Protect Yourself from the Sun and Heat Stress
3. What Is Heat Stress?
4. Skin Cancer Information
5. Sun Exposure and Heat Stress FAQs


1. SPF & Broad Spectrum Protection
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UV rays from damaging the skin. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF 15 filters out approximately 93% of all incoming UVB rays, SPF 30 filters out 97%, and SPF 50 filters out 98%. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends always using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher; SPF 30 or higher if you will be outdoors for an extended period of time.

Broad Spectrum Protection means that the sunscreen offers effective protection against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are damaging to the skin’s surface and are the primary cause of sunburn, while UVA rays penetrate and damage the skin more deeply. It’s important to choose a sunscreen with broad spectrum protection in order to fully protect yourself, as both types of UV rays cause skin cancer.


2. Tips to Protect Yourself from the Sun and Heat Stress

  • Limit the amount of time you spend in the sun. If you work outside all day, take breaks indoors if possible, or in the shade.

  • Use sunscreen lotion on your face, neck, hands, forearms and other unprotected areas of the skin. Be sure to choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater. The SPF will be listed on the label.

  • Apply the sunscreen before going out in the sun. It's best to put it on 20 to 30 minutes ahead of time. Reapply it frequently during the day.

  • The sun's rays are the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Be especially careful to protect your skin from exposure during those hours.

  • Always wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the harmful rays of the sun. When choosing sunglasses, look for a label that indicates they filter at least 90% of the sun's ultraviolet rays.

  • If you can't avoid being outdoors in the sun, wear a lightweight, tightly-woven long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Light-colored clothing is a good choice. Gloves are also a good idea. Be sure your clothes are not too tight.

  • Wear a hat that shades your ears, face, temples and the back of your neck from the sun. These come in many styles. Among them are wide-brimmed hats, pith helmets, and straw hats with extra wide brims.

  • Take time to adjust to working in the heat, especially if you aren't used to working in hot conditions.

  • Drink a lot of water before work, during work, and at the end of the day. Don't just rely on your thirst to tell you how much you need. By the time you are thirsty, you are already somewhat dehydrated. A good rule of thumb is to drink one cup of water every 15-20 minutes while you're working.

  • Juggle your workload. If possible, do your heaviest tasks during the coolest parts of the day.

  • Avoid alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea and other drinks containing caffeine. These act as diuretics – they increase fluid loss through urination.

  • Get an adequate amount of sleep.

  • Using products like cooling vests and bandanas can also help.


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3. What Is Heat Stress?
Heat stress occurs when your body builds up more heat than it can handle. It's important that you, your supervisors and your workers become familiar with the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to protect themselves. The early signs of heat illness are mild dizziness, fatigue, irritability, decreased concentration and impaired judgment. The worker may also be experiencing heat cramps – painful spasms of the leg, arm or abdominal muscles; heavy sweating and thirst.

Other common heat related illnesses include heat strain, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat strain is a general term for how the body responds to heat stress. Heat exhaustion is a physical warning that the body is getting too hot. Body temperature and pulse may be normal or slightly raised but the employee may show heat related symptoms such as headache, vertigo, weakness, thirst and giddiness. Employees suffering from heat exhaustion tend to respond quickly to treatment and should be removed from the hot environment, allowed to rest and given fluids.

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate temperature and the body temperature rises to critical levels. The primary symptoms are confusion, irrational behavior, loss of consciousness, lack of or inability to sweat, hot, dry skin and an abnormally high body temperature. If an employee is showing signs of heat stroke emergency medical attention should be obtained immediately.


4. Skin Cancer Information
Did you know that skin cancer accounts for nearly half of the diagnosed cases of cancer in the United States? More than 3.5 million occurrences of skin cancer will be diagnosed in 2 million people this year.

The good news is that skin cancer can be prevented. Workers who are exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays and do not properly protect themselves face a higher risk of developing both skin cancer and eye damage. Even a few serious sunburns can increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Workers can help reduce exposure to harmful UV rays by following these steps: Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, wear UV-protective sunglasses, wear a hat and clothing to protect your skin, and limit exposure when the sun's rays are the strongest, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This protection, along with employee education, can reduce the chances of developing future sun-related problems.

For more information about skin cancer, including what to look for, visit www.skincancer.org.

 
5. Sun Exposure and Heat Stress FAQs
Q: What is the number one cause of skin cancer?
A: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer. Also note that exposure to sunlight during the winter months puts you at the same risk as exposure during the summertime.

Q: Which type of skin cancer is the most serious?
A: Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are less serious and make up 95% of all skin cancers. These two are also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers and are highly curable when treated early. Melanoma, which is the most virulent of all skin cancers affects over 73,000 people annually and has a tendency to spread to other organs if left untreated.

Q: What can I do to prevent skin cancer?
A: The sun's rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. so be especially careful to protect yourself during those hours. Limit the amount of time spent in the sun, if you work outside all day take breaks indoors or in the shade if possible. Use sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor of 15 and apply liberally 20-30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply frequently. Also, if you can't avoid being outdoors, wear a lightweight, light colored, tightly woven long sleeved t-shirt and pants. Don't forget eye protection and a hat with a brim to protect your face, neck and head.

Q: Is a sunscreen with a higher SPF better?
A: According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF 15 filters out approximately 93% of all incoming UVB rays, SPF 30 filters out 97%, and SPF 50 filters out 98%. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends always using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher; SPF 30 or higher if you will be outdoors for an extended period of time.

Q: What can I do to prevent heat stress?
A: Take time to adjust to the heat, especially if you aren't used to working in hot conditions. Juggle your workload; if possible do your heaviest work during the coolest parts of the day. Drink a lot of water before, during and the end of your shift. Don't rely on just your thirst to tell you how much water you need, by the time you are thirsty you are already somewhat dehydrated. A good rule of thumb is to drink one cup of water every 15-20 minutes while you are working.

Q: What is the difference between heat strain, heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
A: Heat strain is a general term for how the body responds to heat stress. Heat exhaustion is a physical warning that the body is getting too hot. The body temperature and pulse may be normal or slightly raised and symptoms are typically headache, nausea, vertigo, weakness, thirst and giddiness. Employees suffering from heat exhaustion respond quickly to treatment and should be immediately removed from the hot environment, allowed to rest and given fluids. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate temperature and the body temperature rises to critical levels. The primary symptoms are confusion, irrational behavior, loss of consciousness, lack of or inability to sweat, hot, dry skin and an abnormally high body temperature. If an employee is showing signs of heat stroke emergency medical attention should be obtained immediately.

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