Most of us are probably pretty delighted with the current heatwave. It makes a lovely change from the usual rainy UK summer! But if there’s one thing British people are famous for, it’s getting over-excited at the sight of the sun. You know the drill – at the first sight of a bright blue sky, the men are getting their shirts off, everyone heads to a park, beer garden, or outdoor cafe, and pretty soon the streets are filled with sweaty sunburned faces. The fact is, when it comes to sun safety, we’re just not as savvy as our European counterparts. The novelty value of seeing real live sunshine at home overcomes our logic, and then our body suffers.

So what are the risks, and what should we be doing differently?

By now we should all be aware of the risks of skin cancer. But still, every year in the UK, more than 100,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed, and over 2,100 people die. So sunscreen is a must if you’re going to be outside in the sun. You should be using at least factor 15, and a lotion that protects against UVA and UVB.

Something that is often disregarded is how important it is to ensure that you’re using enough lotion. To cover your face, neck and arms, you should use around 2 teaspoons worth. For a full body, it should be about 2 tablespoons. And if you’re outside for an extended period of time you need to re-apply it frequently too. Covering up with loose fitting clothing and a hat is a great idea, as is making sure you get in the shade for at least part of the hottest time of day, from 11-3.

In high temperatures, especially if you’re not used to them, it’s easy to get dehydrated. And there’s also the risk of heatstroke – which is deeply unpleasant. If your body starts to overheat it can cause headaches and vomiting, and in severe cases delirium, seizures or loss of consciousness. To reduce the risks of sunstroke/heatstroke, spending time out of the sun will help, as will making sure you’re drinking enough water. So make sure you’re getting those recommended 8 glasses a day when things heat up.

Sun Safety for Outdoor Workers

Sun safety is particularly important for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. This includes road and construction workers, delivery staff and gardeners, among many others. UV radiation is classed as an occupational hazard for outdoor workers. This means that their employers must include sun protection advice in their health and safety training.

Depending on the type of work environment, there are various steps they could take, like encouraging staff to use adequate sun protection, wear a hat, and take breaks in the shade. They could also consider scheduling work to reduce sun exposure, and provide rest areas and water points that are shaded. As always, consulting employees and safety representatives is a good way of keeping people involved in health and safety, and getting new ideas.

Staying safe in the sun is pretty straightforward, you just need to get into some good habits. We hope you take the time to put these steps into action and protect yourself, and any employees you are responsible for. Now go enjoy the summer!

We offer a range of services that include guidance on all your H&S responsibilities as an employer. For more information, contact or call 0141 244 0181.