Howard Buckley, company EHS Manager from Marley explains why all site workers should be taking steps to protect their eyes this summer.
While you’re probably aware of the risks to your skin from prolonged exposure to the sun, you might not realise the harm it could be doing to your eyes. In fact, people who work outside for long periods of time are at the greatest risk of eye damage from UV radiation. Over many years, this can lead to premature ageing, cataracts, skin cancer on the eyelids and even vision loss.
UV rays can come from many directions, they radiate from the sun but are also reflected from the ground, glass and bright surfaces and despite popular opinion, most clouds don’t offer protection. The effect of UV radiation is cumulative over a lifetime, so it is this prolonged exposure over many years that places construction workers at such high risk. Skin cancer can affect skin on any part of the body, so it is critical that you use suncream and cover up when working on site in the summer.
After the skin, the organ most susceptible to damage from sunlight is the eye and yet, while the consequences of exposing skin to UV radiation are well known, research shows that only 3% of people associate UV rays with eye problems.
While some site workers do wear safety sunglasses or UV goggles, this isn’t consistent across the industry. When it comes to eyes, the top priority on site is impact and dust protection because of the high risk of splinters, chips, nails and wind-blown particles. This means that optical radiation is an easily overlooked hazard, yet the effects on site workers can range from short-term injuries to permanent vision loss.
As well as ageing the skin around the eyes, long-term exposure to the sun’s invisible ultraviolet light is a leading cause of cataracts, skin cancer around the eyes and blindness. It also causes more immediate problems, such as headaches, eye fatigue, redness, dryness, and irritation.
Gary Walpole, safety, health and environment officer at the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC), says: “UV light is one of the many hazards that can damage your eyesight, so it is important that you wear protection. A roofer, or other construction worker, wearing safety sunglasses will not only protect their eyes from harmful UV rays, they will also feel more comfortable when working in bright conditions as the glasses will reduce disruptive reflections (glass, light coloured roofing membranes etc). Safety sunglasses with UV 400 protection and the relevant British Standards kitemark or CE mark, can help vision be significantly safer and more pleasant in sunny and bright conditions.”
Marley’s tips to help site workers keep their eyes safe in the sun
- Don’t ever be tempted to wear sunglasses when working on site. While they’re fine for the journey to work, leave them in the van as they won’t give your eyes the necessary protection from hazards.
- In the summer, wear a pair of safety sunglasses with UV protection. Look for a UV 400 rating and check they are certified in line with EN 166 (personal eye protection) and EN 172 (sunglare filters for industrial use).
- As safety sunglasses will only cover part of your face, to prevent skin cancer and ageing, make sure you also apply suncream.
- Get regular eye examinations and be vigilant – if you have patches of dry or sore skin on eyelids that don’t go away, or any trouble with your vision, seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Also make sure you follow the usual sun safety precautions on site:
- Keep a shirt or jacket on and opt for tightly woven fabrics, which help to form a barrier to the sun’s harmful rays.
- Don’t leave exposed skin unprotected. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 25 and remember to reapply regularly. Make sure you also use an SPF lip balm.
- Wear a hard hat at all times, preferably with a brim and flap that will cover the ears and the back of the neck.
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
- Check your skin regularly for unusual spots and moles, or changes to spots and moles.
To mark this year’s safe in the sun campaign, Marley is giving away 100 free mini bottles of suncream to Professional Builder readers. For your chance to win, enter your details in the form below: