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Make UV protection a part of your PPE

Paul Jakeway
June 12, 2018



Make UV protection a part of your PPE


More than five outdoor workers are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, yet 90% of skin cancer deaths[1] could have been prevented if exposure to UV rays were controlled.


When it comes to being UV aware, a lack of education for workers is the biggest setback. There’s a common misconception that workers can only be affected by UV rays when they are exposed to direct sunlight, but over 90% of UV can pass through light cloud[2], therefore sun protection is crucial even on overcast days.


The seriousness of harmful UV rays is often ignored in the workplace, and a lack of awareness and insufficient training for employees who work outdoors, can ultimately lead to a poor attitude towards sun protection.


Current attitudes towards UV


Two thirds of UK construction workers, who spend an average of nearly seven hours a day outside, don’t know the full extent of the dangers.


In a series of new videos, Deb recently spoke to workers who expose their feelings towards UV rays and the use of sun protection creams whilst working outdoors…


“Depending on staff levels, some days I can spend up to 6/7 hours a day outside. I’ve heard before that cloudy days can be worse because you don’t realise you’re catching the sun but because I’ve got such a bad attitude towards sun cream, it still isn’t something that I’d think to wear.” Ollie, a site manager in London


“Applying sunscreen probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when I’m about to start a task. I just want to get on and start my day. I’ve not been on any training to educate me about the dangers of UV or working outdoors with sunscreen or protecting yourself.” Warren, a handyman


“I’ve worked in construction for the last 30 years. I don’t always wear sun cream when I work outside. I’ve been burnt more on the overcast days than the sunny days. We have common PPE that we need to wear all the time which includes hard hat, glasses and gloves. Sun cream should be made part of the PPE.” Danny, a construction worker





The solution


While it is clear that employees are aware that they have been exposed to the sun when working outdoors, a lack of training and education on site has led to a poor attitude towards the dangers of exposure to the sun and using sun cream protection.


In accordance with HSE guidelines, employers have a duty of care to protect employees from hazards in the workplace and UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for outdoor workers, in the same way that PPE equipment is used to protect workers from falls from height or fires.


In reality, the solutions and measures required to provide adequate protection are simple. First and foremost, employers should implement and encourage the adoption of the 5 S approach:




  1. SLIP on sun protection clothing
  2. SLOP on minimum SPF30 sun cream
  3. SLAP on a hat and neck protection
  4. SLIDE on some sunglasses
  5. SHADE from the sun when possible


This approach should be combined with training tools such as toolbox talks, awareness posters and educational guides for employees, and professional sun cream should be made easily accessible to workers around the site.


Even when workers are on the move, moved from site to site or can’t access UV stations, employers can provide high protection sun cream dispensers and tubes that fit into cars or vans. Employers can also provide sun boards with mirrors and UV level indicators, which will ensure workers are encouraged to apply sun cream correctly.


Now is the time for employers to make UV protection a part of their PPE. For more information or to see our new series of ‘Think UV’ videos, visit:


Stay Sun Safe


[1] IOSH No Time to Lose Solar Radiation Campaign

[2] Cancer Research UK 


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