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Working in the Sun: How to protect workers

Working in the Sun: How to protect workers

Construction workers are 6 times more likely to develop skin cancer due to working in the sun.

With the unpredictable UK summers, it is hard to believe that each year in the UK there is at least 1,500 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 240 new cases of malignant melanoma due to sun exposure at work.

How to Protect workers, working in the sun

Protect the skin

Apply sunscreen before going outside and reapply every 2 hours, due to physical activity cause sweat to wash away the sunscreen, the sunscreen must be a minimum of factor 15 and applied to any areas in direct contact with the sun.


It is common for construction workers to remove their tops in hot weather to help them cool down, however this exposes them to many illness and complications. It is advised that workers to wear loose clothing including tops, wear wide brim hard hat and a bandanna around the back of the neck, this will prevent overheating.

Remember: Correct PPE must be used at all times, heat does not mean PPE can be forgotten about

Hydrate & Rest

Workers should increase their water intake to increase hydration and reduce their intake of hot drinks including tea and coffee to reduce dehydration as hot drinks can increase dehydration. Supervisors and Managers should be actively encouraging workers to drink water by offering breaks. Breaks should be in a shaded area with accessible water.

Rearrange Work Schedule

Where possible managers/supervisors should rearrange work so that there is minimal high intensity work is completed outside during the hottest hours of the day 11am-3pm. It is understandable that this may not always be possible. However, where this is an option, we encourage you to rearrange work schedules.

Watch out for others

In the construction industry it is easy to tell yourself to keep going, nevertheless it is important to watch yourself and others if you start to feel groggy, get a drink take a rest in a shaded area. If you notice your team or another working looking ill or overheating tell them to get some water and a take a rest.

Risks with working in the sun

Working in the sun delivers numerous risks including:

Heat cramps

Heat cramps cause the muscles in the abdomen, arms, and calves to cramp and spasm. Due to the loss of excessive water and salt from physical activity.


Rest in shaded area and drinking fluids with high sodium, calcium, and magnesium levels such as water and sports drinks.

Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion isn’t always serious unless it progresses to heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, loss of appetite
  • Excessive sweating, pale, clammy skin
  • Cramps in abdomen, arms and legs
  • Fast breathing
  • Temperature 38o or higher

If you or someone around you is experience heat exhaustion you MUST follow these 4 steps:

  1. Move them to a cool place.
  2. Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
  3. Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or re-hydration drinks are OK.
  4. Cool their skin by spraying or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good, too.

Stay with them until they’re better. It is advisable to have a trained first aider close by.

They should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes

If they don’t start to feel better after 30 minutes call 999 as the person is showing signs of heatstroke which can become very serious very quickly.