Which SPF rating sunscreen should my workers be using?
These days, it seems like there are so many different SPF ratings of sunscreen on the market it’s hard to be sure of what it all means. SPF is actually a measure of sunscreens ability to prevent Ultra Violet B (UVB) from penetrating into and damaging the skin. It’s safe to say that the higher the number, the better job the sunscreen will do of this. In case you were hoping that the health and safety legislation would specify which SPF rating you should be using, well, we’re sad to inform it doesn’t.
But what the health and safety legislation does specify is that you must identify your workplace hazards, so these can be controlled, to allow you to provide a workplace that is safe for your workers. This means, if you have workers out in the sun, you need to protect them against UV rays so they don’t get sunburn – and melanoma down the track. So, if you do have workers working outdoors, how can this be controlled and what SPF should be being used? Let us give you the low down.
Actually, most sunscreens with an SPF rating of 15 or higher do an excellent job of shielding the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. When used properly, SPF15 protects the skin from 93% of UVB radiation. SPF30 is obviously going to be better and provides 97%. So, yep, you guessed it – the higher the better! And certainly either is better than nothing.
But it’s important to know that there is no single sunscreen will provide 100% coverage. So, along with the highest SPF rating sunscreen you can get your hands on, you should consider other methods to manage your workers time in the sun, like:
- Providing UV protective, long-sleeved collared shirts, long pants, and hats.
- Rescheduling tasks to ensure outdoor work is performed at the start of end of the day.
- Providing access to shelter or shade.
And as a general rule of thumb, sunscreen won’t stay effective for longer than two hours without reapplication, regardless of the SPF rating. So, don’t forget to remind your workers of this, despite what the bottle might say!
Want to learn about mitigating other risks related to your staff working in the sun? Read our blog about ways to avoid heat stress. And if your business does need to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like sunscreen, to manage sun related hazards, you might find our blog about Everything you need to know about Personal Protective Equipment a useful read.