Health & safety duties for outdoor employees

Stephanie Byrne-Roche

July 19 2019

Outdoor employees and sun protection  As climate change dominates the news and summer temperatures rise, your employees are likely to be more conscious of the dangers of sunburn and skin cancer. The most common cancer in Ireland is skin cancer with over 11,000 new cases each year. The Irish Cancer Society reports that 23% of skin cancer deaths are traced back to the outdoor, construction and agriculture industries. Skin cancer is a very preventable disease and you can help outdoor employees reduce the risks of sun-related skin damage by taking the following preventative measures. Duty to put sun protection measures in place If your employees work outside, you may be unsure about what exactly your health & safety obligations around sun protection are. Your core employer duty under health & safety law is to carry out a risk assessment and prepare a written health & safety statement. You are also responsible for creating and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. When it comes to protecting outdoor workers from the effects of sun exposure, this duty requires you to take measures to ensure that outdoor workers are protected against the higher risk of suffering damage to their skin. Employer protective measures for outdoor workers To comply with your health & safety obligations, the following measures should be considered:

  • If possible, plan outdoor work in sunny weather to limit the duration and intensity of employee exposure to direct sunlight (1100 to 1500 sun rays are most intense)
  • Limit the duration of exposure if possible when the UV index is high (3 or above), do indoor work if possible
  • Provide shade if possible
  • Give information to employees about the dangers of sun exposure
  • Inform employees about the Sun Smart code
  • Educate and encourage employees to self-check skin for signs of skin cancer
  • Check UV index, if 3 or above greater risk www.cancer.ie/reduce-your-risk/sunsmart/uv-index
  • Ensure breaks are taken out of direct sunlight
  • Encourage employees to cover up, keep clothing on with sleeves down and collars up, wear clothing with a high ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), 15 or more, wear a hat
  • Ensure employees do not strip off clothing when it is sunny
  • Provide sunscreen, SPF of at least 30 and UVA label on the bottle
  • Provide sunglasses

Sun Smart Code The Irish Cancer Society has also developed the Sun Smart Code to raise awareness of the damaging effects of overexposure to the sun. Following the code is a useful guide to help outdoor workers ensure they get the best protection possible.

  • Seek some shade where possible
  • Slip-on some clothes
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Use sunscreen
  • Know the UV index

Personal protective equipment Personal protective equipment (PPE) is any device or appliance that is worn or held by employees to protect them against health & safety hazards. Outdoor employees should receive instructions on the use of appropriate sun-protection PPE like hats, sunglasses, clothing, and high factor sun cream. Sun protection policy The most effective way to ensure you meet your health & safety obligations is to include a sun protection section in your employment policies. This section will explain how both you and your employees can work together to reduce the risks of overexposure to the sun. Need help with health & safety? Call 1890 252 923 to speak with a health & safety expert today or if you would like one of our advisors to call you back, fill in your details here.

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