Sun light and its natural rhythms are fundamental to our health and wellbeing.
Light is involved in serotonin production which plays several roles in the body, including memory and happiness as well as regulating body temperature and our sleep patterns.
But too much sunlight can be harmful to your skin – it can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering and skin ageing and, in the long term, can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK with over 50,000 new cases every year.
Damage to the skin is caused by UV radiation – a source of energy that is released naturally by the sun and artificially from sunbeds. There are three main types of UV radiation:
- UVB – responsible for most sunburns;
- UVA – penetrates deep into the skin, ageing the skin but burns less;
- UVC – would be the most dangerous, but we are protected by the ozone layer.
To avoid getting burnt, you should:
- Spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm when outdoors;
- Make sure you don’t burn and if you do, keep them covered;
- Cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses;
- Take extra care with children’s exposure when outside in the sun;
- Use at least factor 30 sunscreen (against UVB) and at least a 4-star UVA protection.
Protect your eyes, too – sunglasses with wrap-around lenses or wide arms with the CE Mark and British Standard Mark 12312-1:2013.
You should take extra care in the sun if you:
- Have pale, white or light brown skin;
- Have freckles or red or fair hair;
- Tend to burn rather than tan;
- Have many moles;
- Have skin problems relating to a medical condition;
- Are only exposed to intense sun occasionally (for example, while on holiday);
- Are in a hot country where the sun is particularly intense;
- Have a family history of skin cancer;
- Are on any prescribed medication that makes you more susceptible to sun and heat (check the patient information leaﬂet that comes with the medicine).
When working outdoors:
Hot weather may have an adverse impact on employee health if not managed correctly. Simple ways to minimise harm include:
- Rescheduling outdoor work to cooler times of the day;
- Providing more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to rest areas;
- Providing free access to cool drinking water;
- Supplying shade in areas where individuals are working;
- Encouraging the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss;
- Educating workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress.