By all accounts, Eastern & South Eastern Australia is in for a long hot summer, which isn’t unusual, but does mean you need to take steps to protect yourself & your family from the sun, whether you’re working or holidaying. Keep these 6 tips in mind while you’re out and about to help you avoid damage from the powerful Australian sun.
We know this is difficult for a nation of sun-lovers, and particularly difficult for those who work outside, such as builders, labourers and gardeners, but one of the best ways to avoid sun damage or heat-related illnesses like sun stroke is to seek shade during the hottest parts of the day. For holiday makers, this means using a shade tent or umbrella when on the beach or near the pool between the peak UV period (11am – 3pm). For outdoor workers, there are a number of guidelines set out by SafeWork NSW that employers should follow to reduce the risk to employees or contractors from excessive heat. If you work for yourself, you should try to follow these guidelines wherever practical, including prioritising work that is under shade during peak UV periods.
In Australia, which has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, the vast majority of skin cancers occur on the face, which is why it’s so important to protect your face with a broad-brimmed hat. And it’s particularly important to make sure your kids wear hats while out in the sun, as the damage caused by the sun is cumulative, with exposure from a young age increasing the risk of skin cancers later in life. These days, there are heaps of stylish and practical hats for both adults and kids, including waterproof caps with face and neck protection that are ideal for those who spend hours in the water.
This goes for holiday makers and outdoor workers alike, as correct application of sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of damage to your skin. Clearly, a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 50+ is ideal for those who spend most of their time out of doors through the summer months, with an SPF 30+ a good choice for those who have intermittent sun exposure and who cover up and seek shade during the peak UV period. The key to effective sunscreen use is to do your research, always read (and follow) the instructions and check the ingredients. (For example, people with sensitive skin can develop allergic reactions to many of the chemical-based products, and may prefer a metal oxide-based sunscreen.) And don’t think because it’s cloudy you don’t need to apply sunscreen, as both UVA and UVB rays penetrate through clouds and can cause serious sunburn on overcast days. For an excellent guide on the kinds of sunscreen available and their merits and drawbacks, have a look at this article from CHOICE.
There’s a reason people wear light flowing robes in hot countries, as the fact is, the less skin exposed to the sun, the cooler you stay. So wearing a long-sleeved cotton shirt and light pants or a long skirt is not only going to keep you cooler, it also provides added protection from UV rays. For outdoor workers, this means wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is appropriate to the conditions, such as long-sleeved collared shirts and long pants made of a suitable Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) 50+ rated material. These days, there is a range of light weight, breathable UPF rated materials that have been developed for both outdoor workers and recreational use, such as long-sleeved swim tops for surfers, kayakers and jet skiers.
In 2007, the very popular and successful ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ campaign was updated to include ‘Slide’, which referred to sliding on some sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun damage, such as skin cancers on the eyelids, cataracts and, in the most severe cases, corneal burn. While a broad brimmed hat goes somewhere to protecting your eyes from UV radiation, the best way to avoid eye damage is to always wear UPF rated sunglasses. And these are not necessarily expensive, as the vast majority of sunglasses sold have a UPF rating – just check the tag to make sure they meet sun safety requirements.
Putting all the above practices in place, whether on the beach or on the construction site, is the best way to protect yourself from sun damage now and into the future. Fundamentally, it’s about using your common sense and ensuring you follow some basic guidelines during the heat, alongside drinking lots of water and, if you’re working, taking breaks every 15 minutes or so.
Above all, spending just a bit of time protecting yourself and your family from sun and heat related illnesses will be worth it in the long run.
At Seymour Building Supplies, we stock a range of sun safe products, including sunscreen, hats and personal protective clothing and glasses. Give us a call on 9816 5999 or visit us in store!