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Sun Protection for outdoor workers

When workers spend significant periods outdoors they may be at risk from ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Who is at risk?

All people are at risk from solar ultraviolet radiation but those with pale skin, fair or red hair, freckles or with a family history of skin cancer are most at risk from this type of radiation. Workers should always take care with UV radiation even if you are not fair / freckled.

What are the risks ?

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun may cause sunburn, blistering of the skin and may in the long term cause skin cancer.

Workers should regularly check their skin for any unusual moles or spots as these can be the first signs of skin cancer. Workers should visit their own doctor as soon as practicable if they find that any mole or spot is changing in size/shape/colour and/or starts bleeding and/or itching.

N.B.There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan.

Actions that can be taken to protect workers

1. Schedule work activities to limit unprotected personal exposure to solar radiation, particularly during the four hours around noon (even in the UK).

2. Instruct employees to cover exposed skin with clothing that gives good protection against such radiation e.g. long sleeved shirts and loose clothing with a close weave.

3. Instruct employees to always wear a hat that has a wide brim and if possible something that protects the neck against such radiation.

4. Sunglasses, if deemed necessary by a 'Risk Assessment', should protect against both direct and peripheral exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

5. Instruct employees to try to work and take your breaks in the shade. Be aware that sunburn can occur even when in the partial shade or when cloudy.

6. If deemed necessary by a 'Risk Assessment', apply sunblocks or broad band sunscreens with high sun protection factors (SPF - 15 or greater) to exposed or uncovered skin. Apply such sunscreens generously and reapply frequently as they will rub off after time.

7. Employees should be instructed to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

N.B.  Instruct employees to be aware that certain prescribed drugs, medicines, cosmetics and plant materials can make certain people more sensitive to sunlight.


1. Keep Your Top On - Health Risks from Working in the Sun. (Leaflet Number IND(G) 147 (Rev1)). Published by HSE Books. ISBN:0 7176 1578 2 (1998).

2. Sun Protection - Advice for Employers of Outdoor Workers. (Leaflet Number IND(G) 337). Published by HSE Books. ISBN: 0 7176 1982 6. (2001).

3. Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation on Human Health. Published by National Radiological Protection Board. Radiological Protection Bulletin 173 pages 8-13 (1996).


Environmental Health and Safety Services contact details

University of St Andrews
Bute Building Queens Terrace
St Andrews
KY16 9TS
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1334 462750
Fax:44 (0)1334 462747