The summer months mean hot sun and peak construction season. Now is an important time to brush up on how to protect your skin from sun damage, especially for those who spend hours working outside.
While some heat may feel good at first, the sun radiates two forms of ultraviolet (UV) light, UVA and UVB, which penetrate skin cells and cause damage with short- and long-term effects.
Tanning and sunburn are visible indications of damage caused by sun exposure. Aside from cosmetic effects such as premature aging and wrinkles, prolonged sun exposure can cause skin cancer, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports is the most common type of cancer in the United States.
According to the CDC, only 15%–24% of agricultural and construction workers regularly use sunscreen. OSHA recommends wearing tightly woven clothing, hats, applying sunscreen, wearing UV-absorbent sunglasses and limiting sun exposure during the most intense hours (typically 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) as best practices for workers. These suggestions may not be viable for all workers, depending on industry, uniform requirement, working hours and more.
While OSHA stresses the importance of sun protection, it does not consider sunscreen to be PPE, so employers are not obligated to provide it to their staff. This issue garnered support from DSM Personal Care and Aroma Ingredients and 11 members of Congress in 2022, who urged OSHA to reconsider these standards for outdoor workers. At the time of publication, sunscreen is currently not listed as PPE on OSHA’s construction standard list.