How to Avoid Ultraviolet Rays on the Job.
They say a little sunshine can be good for the soul. Even so, without the right clothing and a generous amount of sunscreen, its UV rays can also be deadly.
For outdoor workers, these ultraviolet rays are a real danger. Prolonged exposure increases the risk of all skin cancers and other types of sun damage, but with a sun-smart strategy and the right protection, you can greatly reduce the risks.
One of those risks, Skin cancer, is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that one in every five Americans develops skin cancer in their lifetime, and exposure to UV light is the most preventable risk factor.
The amount of UV exposure an outdoor worker receives depends on a variety of factors.
UV rays are strongest:
- Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- During summer months
- At higher altitudes
- When reflected off bright or shiny surfaces like concrete or metal
Cloud cover can also reflect UV light, so even on a hazy day it’s important to take precautions. A good way to gauge the strength of the sun’s rays is with the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, it’s time to protect yourself.
Minimize risks by following these guidelines:
- Avoid extended time in the sun when possible.
When you work outdoors, this can be a challenge, but look for ways to minimize exposure for yourself and/or your employees when you can. For example, schedule outdoor tasks, such as mowing, for early morning instead of afternoon.
- Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15.
SPF refers to the amount of time a sunscreen protects you from sunburn. An SPF of 15 means you can stay in the sun 15 times longer than you could normally stay without burning. For most effective use, follow these guidelines:
• Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside.
• Use a broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen and apply a generous amount on all exposed areas of the body—don’t forget the ears, scalp, lips, neck, and hands.
• Re-apply every two hours, especially after sweating.
- Take breaks in the shade.
Whether it’s a tree, a tent, or a truck—find a shady spot and get out of the sun as often as possible, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Use this time to re-apply sunscreen.
- Cover up with clothing.
Don’t rely on sunscreen alone. Wear long-sleeves and pants when possible. Dark clothing with a tight weave offers more protection than light-colored or loose-weave cloth. Look for high-SPF clothing for even more protection.
- Don’t forget your hat and sunglasses.
A hat with a wide brim helps shelter the face, ears, and neck, while glasses with UV protection and side panels offer the most protection for eyes. Skin cancer is only one result of over-exposure—UV rays can also increase your risk of cataracts and other eye problems.
Clearly, the best way to minimize the risk of damaging UV rays is to avoid them altogether, but that’s not practical or possible when your work takes you outdoors.
Besides, a little sunshine is good for the soul—it just doesn’t have to be damaging to your skin!