In recent news, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) reminded workers and employers of the dangers associated with sun and heat exposure. In the greater Tacoma and Seattle area, we are currently experiencing sunny days with highs reaching into the upper 80’s. Consequently, the Department is being proactive, trying to avoid L&I work injury claims caused by the ongoing conditions.
What is L&I doing to prevent sun related work injury claims?
According to L&I, working outside in the sun and heat
“can lead to heat stress, skin cancer, exhaustion and dehydration. These are all preventable. Water, shade, rest and sun protection are some of the basic steps to take.”
Workers can prevent a workplace injury, industrial injury, and occupational disease from happening, by following certain steps and recommendations.
The L&I news bulletin included links to additional resources regarding the dangers of heat and sun exposure and preventative measures. One of those was from the United States Department of Labor – Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) – Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign. The goal of the campaign is to help make teenage workers aware of outdoor job hazards for a more positive and rewarding work experience. Accordingly, OSHA says that heat and sun exposure are two work injury and industry hazards that pose a significant threat to teenage workers.
Teenage workers are at greater risk of sun related work injuries
It is important to know that sun exposure at any age can cause skin cancer and eye damage. Young adults are at extra risk for sun damage if they freckle or burn before tanning. They are also at higher risk if they have many moles, fair skin or light-colored hair, or spend a lot of time outdoors. High temperature and humidity, and direct sun and heat, can cause heat stress. On top, limited air movement, physical exertion, and poor physical condition, can also cause heat stress. The symptoms of heat stress or illness include headaches, dizziness, weakness, moist or dry hot skin, confusion, vomiting and seizures.
According to OSHA, tips for teens to beat summer sun and heat while working include:
- Wearing protective clothing that blocks light, covers as much skin as possible, and is loose fitting;
- Liberally applying sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher every 2 hours;
- Wearing hats and sunglasses with UV protection;
- Limiting direct sun exposure and seeking shade when possible;
- Drinking plenty of cool water (about 1 cup every 15 minutes) and avoiding caffeinated beverages and heavy meals;
- Taking frequent and short breaks in cool and shaded areas;
- Performing heaviest work during the coolest part of the day;
- Building up tolerance to heat and work activity without over-exertion; and
- Telling co-workers if feeling ill.
In summary, heat and sun exposure are risks for all outdoor and seasonal workers. However, they are considered an increased workplace injury hazard for teenage workers. Teenagers working in outdoor jobs like landscaper, yard maintenance, camp counselor, lifeguard, and other seasonal jobs should know the symptoms. It is also important for them to take extra care to protect themselves from heat and sun damage, stress, and illness.