An upward-looking image of a construction worker wearing a sun shield over his hard hat and a long sleeve t-shirt.

Sun Protection Tips For Construction Workers

One of my first jobs out of college was as a construction worker in New Orleans. I loved the physical nature of the job, but the long days in the sun can be brutal. Here are some of my recommendations that helped me get through each day while minimizing my UV exposure.

Gear up

Having the right sun protective gear is one of the easiest ways to make sure you stay protected. Here are some of the items I’d recommend every construction worker have:

Hard hat sun shield

Thanks to OSHA regulations, many job sites require you to wear a hard hat throughout the day. A hard hat will certainly protect your head from a variety of dangers, including UV exposure, but its narrow brim provides little sun protection for your face and neck. A “hard hat sun shield” is a cheap and easy addition that can dramatically decrease your UV exposure throughout the day. It’s a super lightweight brim that sits on top of the hard hat to provide additional shade. Also, most hard hat sun shields also include a fabric that drops down the back of the helmet to help protect your neck.

Wide brim hat

If your employer does not seem to care about OSHA regulations or perhaps you are working on a small contract job, you may not be wearing a hard hat. In these situations, make sure you still keep your head and face covered from the sun with a wide-brim hat. Personally, I always make sure to check that it’s rated UPF 50+, but any coverage you can get is certainly better than nothing.

UV protective sunglasses

Your eyes can be as easily damaged from the sun's UV rays as your skin. Snag a couple of quality pairs of 100% UV protective sunglasses. Keep one in your car as a backup, and wear the second pair anytime you’ll be working outside. The sunglasses often make the workday a lot more comfortable and also keep your eyes from being damaged by UV exposure.

UPF 50+ shirts

A quality, long sleeve UPF 50+ shirt will ensure your body and arms are protected from all-day exposure. The more of your skin you can keep covered, the better off you’ll be. However, I completely understand not wanting to destroy your best clothes on the job site. While some brands charge a fortune for UPF 50+ gear, you don’t need to break the bank to have the right gear. There are plenty of low cost UPF 50+ clothing options. Look around and start stocking up. Wearing sun protective clothing is often much easier than having to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours throughout the workday.

Sunscreen

Even if you have a wide brim hat or a sun shield, you’ll still need to apply sunscreen to any exposed areas of skin. This is generally going to be areas like your face, neck, and hands. Also, if your skin is easily irritated, I would definitely recommend a sunscreen specifically designed for your face. They are designed to be less aggravating on sensitive parts of your skin and are often much more comfortable (and potentially less painful on your eyes) than the generic sunscreen designed for your entire body.

Set alarms

This recommendation is not specific to construction workers, but for anyone who's planning to be outdoors all day. Every time you apply sunscreen, set an alarm on your phone for two hours later. When the alarm goes off, take a quick break to reapply your sunscreen. This is one of the easiest ways to ensure you are protected throughout the day.

Seek shade

Find shade whenever possible. Again, this is a generic recommendation for all outdoor jobs and not just construction workers, but one that’s extremely important. Whenever you have a break, spend that time in the shade. You can almost always find a tree or building to post up next to anytime you need a breather or when eating lunch. Finding shade is one of the easiest ways to avoid unnecessary UV exposure.

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