Protecting Yourself from Sun Damage on the Job
Posted by PK Safety Team on Feb 12th 2009
Since sunscreen seems more and more essential these days, I thought it would be good to review some thoughts about protecting yourself from solar radiation. This has been a popular topic year after year. And since I have fair skin, it is one I take personally.
Here in sunny California, it may only be February, but with our drought conditions, the risk of sunburn starts early. In the weeks ahead, days will be growing longer and work on outdoor job sites is sure to increase. So thinking about sun safety can't begin too soon. If you or your employees will be exposed on the job, it is essential to be educated about the impact the sun can have on you. Different methods of protection, such as sunscreen products or clothing options, can make a difference.
Beyond the heat of the sun and keeping cool in an outdoor work situation, there are harmful rays having an influence on your body. Frequent exposure to damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays causes sun damage. UV is a form of radiation emitted by the sun. UV rays fall into 2 types that you should be aware of; UVA and UVB. The role each play specifically in long-term sun damage is not fully understood, but it is believed that UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and are the major source of early aging and skin cancer, while UVB rays primarily affect the surface of the skin and are the primary cause of sunburns. We are exposed to these rays every day, regardless of whether it is cloudy or not. Standard window glass won't stop them either. That is why we recommend sun protection for use on a daily basis year-round and this is doubly important for those who work outside.
As an outdoor worker, particularly in the construction or utility fields, it is easy to neglect any type of sun protection. Often their lives are at risk from falls, electrical hazards and other hazards that require their more immediate attention. Who wants to be bothered by having to apply sunscreen; it takes time. For many of our customers, the new fast absorbing sunscreen sprays and sunscreen pouches make application complete in just moments - just wipe it on. Very little mess and the skin feel is almost unnoticeable. Be sure to apply to areas like behind the ears, the backs of hands, the neck and other spots not being protected by clothing or sun safety accessories such as sun flaps attached to hardhats.
Please beware of the idea that a deep tan is offering you some sort of protection from the sun. If this sounds familiar, please note that the UVA rays are still penetrating your skin and causing harmful reactions. The least problem is leathery skin as you get older, caused by a breakdown in the collagen of your skin cells. More serious are the cancers that may be caused. Basic rules of sunscreen use to follow are to be sure to use a sunscreen product that protects from both UVA and UVB rays. We recommend SPF 30. Apply about 30 minutes before sun exposure, make sure all exposed areas are covered, and reapply approximately every 2 hours. Where at all possible, work in the shade or during the non-peak hours of exposure from 10am - 4pm.
Although even sunscreen products will not completely block all of the sun's harmful rays, by using it regularly in combination with sun protective clothing, outdoor workers should be able to minimize their risk of sun damage. An assortment of sunscreen products are available; single application packets, sunscreen towelettes, pump sprays or bulk sunscreen in gallon dispensers encourage workers to protect themselves in all ways possible. Education and awareness of the potential long-term danger, beyond just the threat of uncomfortable sunburn today is also often all that is needed to encourage these protective measures.