As summer and the long days of prolonged hot sunshine is upon us once again, the natural instinct to remove items of clothing as the sun comes out is evident. But could your employer be liable if you suffer from skin cancer as a result of removing clothing and not being supplied skin protection cream or sun lotions?
An extensive search for court rulings in which an employer was held responsible for one of their staff contracting skin cancer whilst at work has provided no evidence and no case law provided. However, this does not mean that an employer in the future might be found liable if they do not protect their employee’s welfare whilst at work.
The risks created by the suns rays should never be ignored, but what is being said is that you as an employee are not completely responsible for your own skin protection and employers to some extent must take ownership of the associated risks.
Free sun protection creams and guidance information on the risks of sun exposure should be supplied to employees if they are exposed for considerable amounts of time in the sun, as an example lets think about external workers such as builders, external landscapers etc.
A suggestion if you are spending prolonged periods of time in the sun to protect yourself is to whenever possible wear long sleeved, loose fitting clothing. Not only will this protect your skin, it will also help to keep the body temperature down and also minimize the risk of a heat stroke. Your employer could supply lightweight clothing which allows the body to breathe in all weathers or prohibit the removing of clothing for their own safety.
Advise on using sun-barrier creams could be instigated and the rule to use these for skin protection mandatory whilst exposed to the sun. A sun protection of no less than Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 should be used as this will provide adequate protection.
Also, advice on breaks that they should be taken indoors or in the shade out of the suns rays is another way protection can be offered. If temperatures are particularly hot then, your employer might want to consider being flexible with break allowances incorporating more frequent short rest breaks out of the sun. This time could be used to apply more protection barrier creams and to rehydrate by drinking more fresh cold drinking water.