Protecting Against UV Exposure in the Workplace-February 2012

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety 

February 2012 

IN THIS ISSUE: Protecting Against UV Exposure in the Workplace

Overexposure to Ultraviolet light or radiation (UV) can cause injury because it is invisible and it doesn’t produce an immediate reaction.  UV is part of the electromagnetic spectrum and a form of non-ionizing radiation. This kind of energy does not produce sufficient energy to remove an electron from its shell. UV is in the frequency range of approximately 0.4 to 0.1 micrometers. OSHA does not have a specific standard for UV, but the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygiene has a Threshold Limit Value and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has guidelines, information, and a model standard.

The most common effect of UV is sunburn or reddening of the skin where more intense exposure can cause swollen skin or blisters. Repeated contact can cause aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer. UV can increase the effects of some chemicals such as photosensitizing agents. 

Controlling Exposure to UV Outdoors

  1. Limit exposure to the sun. Employers should limit work during the hottest part of the day, offer shaded break areas, and provide training in the risk, protection, and signs and symptoms of UV exposure. 
  2. Cover up. Workers should wear long sleeves and pants as well as a hat with a brim and sunglasses. 
  3. Use sunscreen. Employees should provide sunscreen of an SPF of 15 or higher and instruct employees to apply it every 2 hours or when wet. Products should be rated to protect against all forms of UV light.

Controlling UV Exposure during Welding and Plasma Cutting

While the greatest source of UV is the sun and persons who work outside receive the greatest exposure, the other most common sources of industrial exposure to UV are welding and plasma cutting. Exposure to welding can cause burns to the eyes and skin. Arc flash, a feeling of sand in the eye, is caused by looking at the arc for even a few seconds. Repeated exposure can cause permanent eye damage. Cataracts also have been linked to long-term UV exposure in welding. The effects of UV can be limited: 

  1. Engineering controls including shielding and enclosure
  2. Elimination of reflective surfaces 
  3. Use of automated or alternative welding processes. 
  4. Protective clothing 
  5. Welding hood or goggles. Hoods are available with a sensor that immediately turns the lens from clear to the proper shade when an arc is struck
  6. Welding screens protect other welders and others who pass through the area

UV is invisible and all around us, and it is vital to have a comprehensive program to recognize, evaluate and control UV hazards. For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or (303) 219-6973 or visit us at

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate andcontrol hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety andhealth. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues.

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