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Working in the Sun Safely: A Quick Guide for Workers

This article breaks down the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guide, 'Keep your top on - Health risks from working in the sun' (INDG147), aimed primarily at outdoor workers such as those in farming, construction and waste collection. It highlights the risk of skin cancer due to prolonged exposure to sun and provides key advice: wear appropriate clothing; seek shade when possible; use high-factor sunscreen; stay vigilant for skin changes and, importantly, maintain hydration.

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This article is a simple guide to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) document titled "Keep your top on - Health risks from working in the sun", also known as INDG147. This document offers advice for outdoor workers from the Health and Safety Executive and the Health Departments in England, Scotland and Wales. The original document can be found at https://books.hse.gov.uk/ and carries the ISBN number 9780717667215.

Who is this document for?

This document is primarily aimed at outdoor workers such as those working on farms, building sites, and in waste collection. These individuals are more likely to be at risk if their work results in exposure to direct sunlight for long periods.

What are the risks?

  • Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK. Too much exposure to UV radiation from the sun can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering, skin ageing and in the long term could lead to skin cancer. Those with a family history of skin cancer, and those with pale skin/fair hair may be more at risk.
  • Some medicines, contact with some chemicals used at work (such as dyes, wood preservatives, coal tar and pitch products), and contact with some plants, can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Your works doctor or family doctor should be able to advise you further.

Simple advice for outdoor workers

  • Keep your top on! Cover up by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, especially during breaks.
  • Use a high-factor sunscreen (at least SPF15).
  • Watch for symptoms that include: appearance of new moles or spots, changes to shape, size, colour of moles and spots or if they itch or bleed (seek medical advice).
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Further information

For more information about health and safety, visit https://books.hse.gov.uk or http://www.hse.gov.uk. You can view HSE guidance online and order priced publications from the website. HSE priced publications are also available from bookshops.


This guide provides a quick overview of the HSE document INDG147, aimed at protecting outdoor workers from the health risks associated with prolonged exposure to sunlight. Remember to cover up, stay in the shade, use sunscreen, monitor for changes in your skin and stay hydrated. For more detailed information, refer to the original document.


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Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.

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