Summer hazards on the farm – don’t forget the sunscreen

With the arrival of the summer weather across Wales, it is timely to think about safety and the dangers which can be faced by farmers and other outdoor workers. heat stroke, heat exhaustion, cramps, and fatigue can creep up, with the constant pressure to finish one job to get onto the next.

Fatigue can set in very quickly, extended working hours through the longer days is a major cause of accidents, and figures for ireland show that almost half of fatalities on the farm happen in May, August and September. Another study found that fatigue was four times more likely to cause an accident than alcohol or drugs.

Working hard for too long, not enough rest, poor quality sleep, noise and vibration – all can lead to accidents which could have long term implications for workers, and the farm business itself.

But the truth is that we are all poor judges of our own level of fatigue, the task is to make time to avoid accidents:
• Making sure you get enough sleep
• Staying hydrated, drink lots of water and eat properly
• Get extra help at the busiest times if you can

heat can also literally be a killer, and some simple ways of preventing that should include: • Adjusting work schedules to provide a rest from the heat
• Postpone nonessential tasks
• Wear proper protective clothing

• Ensure you are drinking enough water to stay hydrated • Allow time to acclimatise to the hot environment
• Recognise heat illness and how to prevent it

Even more deadly are hazards faced when working outside in strong sunlight. According to a recent study by imperial College London, working outdoors could lead to one death and around five new cases of melanoma skin cancer a week.

the study, which was published in the British Journal of Cancer, highlighted that it was construction workers who recorded the highest number of deaths (44 per cent), followed by agriculture workers (23 per cent) and public administration and defence workers, including the police and armed forces (10 per cent).

the institute of Occupational Safety and health’s iOSh’s solar campaign revealed that despite working outside for up to seven hours a day, only 59 per cent of construction employees regularly applied sunscreen.

too much sunlight is harmful to your skin and being exposed to ultraviolet radiation can cause sunburn and potentially skin cancer. it can also cause blistering and skin ageing and in the long term can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer.

A tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged. the damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight.

So one of the key messages when working outdoors for a long time is that skin could be exposed to more sun than is healthy for you, and you should take particular care if you have:
• fair or freckled skin that doesn’t tan, or goes red or burns before it tans
• red or fair hair and light coloured eyes
• a large number of moles

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