Health and Safety ReportVolume 22, Issue 05

On Topic

Shedding Light on Sun Safety at Work print this article

Do you employ outdoor workers? If you do, then sun safety should be part of your health and safety program.

More than 1.5 million outdoor workers in Canada are substantially exposed to the sun. This includes workers across a range of industries – from construction to agriculture to recreation and hospitality.

Overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause sunburns, premature skin aging, skin cancer, eye damage, and heat-related illnesses.

Employers need to take every measure possible to reduce the risk of UV radiation exposure, and to protect workers against the harmful effects of the sun.

Developing a Sun Safety Program

Start by reviewing how you currently manage sun exposure in your workplace. Have you checked the legislation in your province, territory, or jurisdiction for requirements to prevent harm from the sun and heat?

All employers have a general duty to take all reasonable measures to protect workers and, in some cases, the legislation provides a range of acceptable temperatures for specific circumstances.  

Next, have you conducted any risk assessments? These assessments should consider risk factors during routine work, as well as during non-routine circumstances, like a heat wave.

To perform a risk assessment, inspect work areas to identify situations where there is a potential for hazardous sun exposure, evaluate the level of risk to your workers, and determine possible measures to lower the risk and keep workers safe. It’s also good practice to review health and safety records to pinpoint issues that need to be addressed.

Talk about health and safety concerns with workers, health and safety committee members and representatives, and encourage them to share their experiences.

Invite their input on developing a policy for sun safety, and how to action it in the workplace. For a sun safety program to be effective, you’ll need their feedback, support, and participation.

Being Sun Smart

When following the hierarchy of controls, the most effective way to reduce risk is to eliminate a hazard altogether or substitute it with a safer alternative. But when it comes to sun exposure for outdoor workers, this isn’t always possible.

Instead, introduce engineering controls that separate the worker from the hazard, like providing shaded areas on the jobsite. Incorporate administrative controls that raise awareness about safe work practices, such as sun safety training and signage.

Include information on how to practise sun safety in new-hire orientation, health and safety training, and through informal “crew talks” before a shift. Inform workers of preventative measures available, and make sure they stay hydrated and take adequate breaks out of the sun. If workers are required to wear personal protective equipment, ensure it is appropriate for the job and work conditions.

Lastly, take the time to evaluate your program’s effectiveness. Walk through jobsites and observe the protections in place and talk with workers. Analyze any incidents or near-misses, and introduce UV index and heat monitoring, workplace inspections, and refresher training to help ensure sun safety on the job.

Understanding the UV Index

The UV index is a scale of 0 to 11+ that measures the strength of the sun’s rays. It can help you determine the level of risk to workers daily, and what precautions to take to lower the risk.

Once the UV index reaches a moderate level (3-5), for example, workers should cover their skin and wear a hat, unless head protection is required. Sunscreen and UV-rated eye protection should also be worn.

The highest UV values occur in southern Ontario, where values of 11, or even 12 on rare occasions, have occurred. The higher the UV index, the greater the need for precautions.

This being the case, it’s a good idea to check the local UV index forecast when scheduling outdoor work. When possible, avoid or limit outdoor work during peak sun hours, between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., when UV radiation is at its strongest.

Layering on Sun Protection

The slip, slop, slap, seek, and slide model, originally launched by Cancer Council Australia, can help guide how to gear up for sun protection:

  • Slip on protective clothing. Cover up as much skin as possible by wearing lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Tightly woven, sun-resistant fabric is more effective at blocking UV rays than sunscreen. Even on overcast days, covering up is required to lower the risk of sun exposure.
  • Slop on sunscreen. Apply a broad-spectrum, waterproof sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 on all exposed skin. This should be applied 20 minutes before going outdoors, and re-applied every two hours, and after sweating.
  • Slap on a hat. Wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers the head, face, ears, and neck. This provides better coverage than other options, such as ball caps. Note, hats can’t be worn if head protection is required.
  • Seek shade. Shade can also help reduce the risk of sun exposure. That’s why it’s important for employers to provide shaded areas, like trees, canopies, and structures, on a jobsite.
  • Slide on protective eyewear. Wear protective eyewear with UV filtering lenses to shield the eyes from the sun. Close-fitting, wraparound eyewear can help to block stray light.

To lower the risk of heat-related conditions, provide access to drinking water and encourage breaks in areas where workers can cool down. Consider supplying cooling wear to workers, such as vests, neck shades and headwear with built-in cooling mechanisms.

Remember to evaluate any change being introduced to make sure a new hazard isn’t being created, and existing control measures aren’t impacted.

Also, encourage workers to examine their skin frequently for suspicious spots, new or irregular moles, and other skin conditions. Should any arise, they should see a doctor immediately.



Apply Now for the Chad Bradley Scholarshipprint this article

If you are a woman pursuing a career in occupational health and safety, you may be eligible to win a $3,000 scholarship from CCOHS.

The Chad Bradley Scholarship is offered to women enrolled in either a full-time or part-time health and safety related program leading to an occupational health and safety certificate, diploma, or degree at an accredited college or university in Canada.

The deadline to apply is August 31, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Learn more about the scholarship and how to apply:


Access Hundreds of Free Resources in Updated CCOHS Safe Work Appprint this article

Looking for workplace health and safety resources to help you operate safely and protect workers? Download the updated CCOHS Safe Work app for free to access an expanded collection of bilingual fact sheets, infographics, videos, tip sheets, and more.

The app now includes access to over 700 fact sheets covering a wide range of topics. It also includes resources on respiratory infectious diseases, travel health and safety and zoonotic diseases, developed in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Once the app is downloaded to your device, you can access the resources even when there is limited or no internet connectivity.

This app replaces CCOHS’ OSH Answers App, which will no longer be updated.


Practical Guidance for Working Safely with Hazardous Products and Other Chemicalsprint this article

Get the practical guidance and tools you need to work safely with hazardous products and other chemicals with our updated publications.

WHMIS Instructor’s Toolkit

With an emphasis on common hazard classes and scenarios that most workplaces are likely to encounter, this kit is for all organizations that need to educate their workers on the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).

This updated toolkit provides the content and tools trainers need to teach workers about WHMIS. Workers will learn how to keep themselves and co-workers safe when working with hazardous products. They’ll learn about the hazards of the product, how they’re protected from those hazards, and what to do in case of emergency. The content reflects the Hazardous Products Regulations requirements as of December 15, 2022. Participant activities and final assessment options, including answers, help to determine workers’ understanding of the information.

Designed to be delivered in an instructor-led format, the toolkit includes an instructor’s manual available in print and PDF formats, and a Microsoft PowerPoint slide presentation.

WHMIS Participant Workbook

As a companion to the WHMIS Instructor’s Toolkit, the Participant Workbook is strongly recommended for each participating worker. The workbook provides background on WHMIS, with a focus on hazard classes, labels, and safety data sheets. It also includes review questions, activities, and a final assessment. Workers can also record important WHMIS and health and safety information that is specific to their workplace.

Implementing a Chemical Safety Program

Organizations small and large can use this manual to get started on or to improve their chemical safety program. It provides step-by-step guidance on understanding and controlling the hazards of chemicals, and how to work safely with chemicals. Use and adapt the sections that apply best to the chemical hazards in your workplace. A workplace chemical safety program reduces health and safety risks, lowers environmental impact, and reduces operation costs.


Keeping Up with New Legislationprint this article

Occupational health and safety and environmental laws are always evolving. This month’s highlights include an amendment to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and the adoption of an updated CSA standard in Nova Scotia’s Workplace Health and Safety Regulations.

British Columbia

Hazardous Waste Regulation (Environmental Management Act):  B.C. Reg. 42/2024, Sch. 2 updates the regulation to keep it current. Schedule 5 is amended to replace forms 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. 

Nova Scotia

Workplace Health and Safety Regulations (Occupational Health and Safety Act): N.S. Reg. 73/2024 makes amendments to adopt the 2018 edition of CSA standard CSA Z797, “Code of practice for access scaffold,” in various sections, effective on and after March 26, 2024.


Occupational Health and Safety Act: S.O. 2019, c. 1, Sch. 4, s. 39 was proclaimed into force and replaces wording in clause 43(2)(a); and, repeals and replaces subsection 50(8) under Section 50 No discipline, dismissal, etc., by employer.


Regulation respecting occupational health and safety (Act respecting occupational health and safety): The final portion of O.C. 644-2022 is now in force which amends the Regulation to replace, strike out, and insert a number of substances and their characteristics in Part 1 of Schedule I and to insert and strike out a number of substances in Part 4 of Schedule I.

For more information on recent regulatory changes, CCOHS offers a paid subscription service, Canadian enviroOSH Legislation plus Standards, that provides a collection of all the health, safety, and environmental legislation you need in one location.

Partner News

Apply to Join Registry of Investigators for Workplace Harassment and Violenceprint this article

Do you have experience with workplace investigations related to harassment and violence? Apply now to join the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Registry of Investigators. Employment and Social Development Canada invites interested individuals to apply by June 28, 2024.

The national registry allows employers and organizations to find qualified professionals to help investigate occurrences of harassment and violence in the workplace.

Learn more about the registry, eligibility criteria and how to apply.


Embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace print this article

CCOHS releases new podcasts each month to help you stay current and informed on workplace health, safety, and well-being in Canada.

Featured Podcast: Embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace   

In this episode, we chat with Dr. Marie-Hélène Pelletier, a psychologist and business leader, about embracing neurodiverse conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and autism spectrum disorder, in the workplace. Learn how your organization can support individual differences and needs while also recognizing the unique strengths and talents that people who are neurodivergent bring to the job.

Listen to the podcast now.

Encore Podcast: Workplace Refreshers to Prevent Dehydration

No matter the season or type of work, if staff don't drink enough fluids to replace what is lost in the day, they can become dehydrated. Just a small drop can cause a loss of energy, with severe dehydration being a medical emergency. Learn more about keeping workers safe, including tips for recognition and prevention.

Listen to the podcast now.

See the complete list of podcast topics or, better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes or Spotify and don't miss a single episode.

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We welcome your feedback and story ideas.

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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.

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