1. To provide guidance for the development of a division-specific sun protection program
  2. To provide information and education related to sun exposure (UV radiation) to management, supervisors and workers

The Importance of a Sun Protection Policy & Program

There is a high risk of overexposure to solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation, especially during the peak period of the day in the spring and summer months. [Note: Ontario’s Sun Safety Working Group has recently recommended changing this time period from 11AM to 4PM to 11 AM to 3 PM. Environment and Climate Change Canada’s website has been amended to reflect this recommendation. However, The Ministry of Labour’s and Health Canada’s websites continue to identify the peak period as being between 11AM and 4 PM. These City Guidelines continue to recommend alignment with the Ministry of Labour’s guidance].

The health risks associated with solar UV exposure are largely preventable, therefore it is important that divisions, supervisors and employees be aware of the health effects associated with solar UV exposure and sun protection measures.

Development of a Sun Protection Program – Required Elements

A comprehensive sun protection program includes development and implementation of the following key elements to minimize the risk of sun-related health effects.

1. Risk Assessment

Each division, in consultation with their business unit health and safety consultants, will need to conduct a risk assessment to determine whether there is a potential for worker exposure to solar UV radiation, and the extent of exposure anticipated. The risk assessment is the initial step in the development of a sun protection program, and will provide information to assess the appropriate level of protection needed.

Prolonged sun exposure is defined as solar UV radiation exposure that may result in a skin burn due to either the frequency and/or duration of an exposure, as determined by the UV index chart and the risk assessment. Reviewing job titles or classifications does not provide sufficient information to determine whether a group of workers is at risk of prolonged sun exposure. Instead, the UV index chart (See Appendix A: UV Index) should be used to determine whether a work group is at risk, taking into account the frequency and/or duration of the occupational exposure.

Once this determination is made, the extent of control measures should take into account, but not be limited to, consideration of the following criteria:

  • Nature and location of the work (continuous vs. intermittent, shaded vs. unshaded areas)
  • Routine and non-routine work activities
  • Length of time spent outdoors
  • Frequency of sun exposure (number of times per day, week, month)
  • Time of day spent outdoors (peak UV periods vs. early morning or evening)
  • Environmental conditions (UV index/intensity of sun exposure)
  • Personal risk factors

2. Control Measures

It is advised that engineering controls always be considered first, followed by administrative and personal protective controls. In addition, a combination of several types of controls may be needed to adequately mitigate the hazard.

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are used to reduce employee exposure in the workplace by either removing or isolating the hazard, or isolating the employee from the exposure. Types of engineering controls that reduce sun exposure include:

  • Erecting canopies and shelters
  • Umbrellas
  • Tents

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls involve the development of policies and procedures to minimize the risk of a hazard in the workplace. The following should be used to reduce sun exposure, especially during peak periods between 11 AM and 4 PM:

  • Where possible, schedule outside work in the early morning or late afternoon and schedule alternative tasks when solar UV radiation is most intense
  • Seek either natural or artificial shade especially during scheduled breaks and meal times
  • Move outdoor tasks indoors to a cooler environment, if feasible
  • Take frequent rest breaks to allow employees to move out of the sun
  • Inform employees of environmental conditions where solar UV radiation exposure can occur, including:
    • The UV index, which gives the expected noon-time UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface on a scale of 1-10. The higher the index number the greater the potential for exposure to solar UV radiation. This can help to determine when to avoid sun exposure and take extra protective measures (For more information refer to Appendix A: UV Index).
    • Indirect, reflected rays from water, white sand or concrete, snow, and ice. These surfaces can reflect from around 10 to 80 percent of the UV rays.
    • Cloudy, hazy and foggy days where up to 80% of solar UV radiation can still pass through.

Sun Awareness – Education & Training

Training and information material should be delivered to educate all managers, supervisors, and employees who work in divisions where there is a potential for prolonged sun exposure. The training module will include all of the following elements:

  • Properties of solar UV radiation
  • Health effects associated with UV radiation exposure
  • Awareness of risk factors for sun-related injuries, environmental conditions
  • Responsibilities of divisions, supervisors, and employees with regards to sun protection programs
  • Prevention strategies including engineering and administrative controls as well as personal protection measures
  • First aid and reporting of sun-related injuries

Public Health has developed training materials and is prepared to assist or provide training/information sessions for City of Toronto employees. In addition, Occupational Health and Safety staff is available to assist or deliver training/information sessions, as needed.

Personal Protective Controls

Based on the divisional risk assessment, an appropriate level of personal protection will be provided to protect outside workers against exposure to solar UV radiation, either when working in direct sunlight or when UV exposure from the sun is the most intense.

  • Head protection, preferably with a wide brim (8 cm or greater) or back flaps, should be worn to shade the face, ears and neck. The type of head protection worn will depend on the nature of the work activity (i.e. if a hardhat is needed.
  • Clothing that does not transmit visible light should cover as much of the body as practical, and where uniforms are provided sun safety should be considered. The protection ability of the fabric is strongly related to the tightness of the weave.
    Safety glasses, when required, should block out 99-100% of UV-A & UV-B radiation.
  • Broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or greater and that filters out both UV-A & UV-B rays should be applied on all exposed skin. If certain individuals are not able to wear the sunscreen provided due to allergic reactions, alternate protective measures will be provided (For more information refer to Appendix B: Sunscreen Fact Sheet).
  • Apply lip protection with a SPF of 30 or higher

The use of the above personal protection measures should not lead to additional safety risks of wearing head protection with inadequate impact protection, UV-blocking safety glasses that affect vision, or heat stress from wearing heavy clothing.

Purchase of Control Measures

The requirements of the City of Toronto’s Health and Safety Policy on Incorporating Occupational Health, Safety and Ergonomics Principles into the Purchasing Process should be followed when sending out tender documents. Collaboration between divisions, Purchasing Materials Management Division, health and safety staff and the end-users in the tender and selection process, will ensure appropriate protective measures are purchased and a high level of user compliance.

3. Regular Skin Examinations

Outside workers should perform monthly self-exams to look for and track any changes in moles or other spots on the skin. Signs of skin cancer include changes in the surface of a mole (scales, bleeding, or increases in elevation or thickness) as well as a change in the sensation in the area of the mole (itchiness, tenderness, pain). Moles should be examined for asymmetry, border irregularity, pigmentation, and increases in size. Attention should also be paid to any sores, wounds, growths, or patches of skin that scale or will not heal. Early detection of skin cancer is important. Therefore medical attention should be sought if any of the above are detected or if other noticeable skin changes occur.

4. First Aid Procedures & Reporting of Sun-Related Injuries

First aid procedures for sunburns:

  • Immediately cool the burned area
  • Immerse burned part in cool water or if immersion is not possible pour cool water over the area or cover with a cool cloth until the pain is relieved
  • Remove jewelry and loosen tight clothing
  • Protect burned areas from the sun
  • Do not break blisters
  • When the pain has lessened, cover the burned areas loosely with a clean preferably sterile material
  • Secure the dressing, ensure the tape does not touch the burned area
  • Seek medical attention if necessary

Sunburns or other sun-related injuries that result from workplace exposure to solar UV radiation should be documented and reported using the Supervisor’s Report of Injury/Incident.

Background Information on Ultraviolet Radiation

Sunlight is the main source of ultraviolet radiation (UV) known to damage the skin and cause other health-related effects. The amount of solar UV exposure depends on the strength of the light, length of exposure, and the degree of sun protection.

Mechanism of Damage

When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation, a portion of radiation is reflected away from the skin, some is scattered in the tissue beneath the skin’s surface, and the rest is absorbed by the skin cells. The UV radiation that is absorbed by skin cells influences the skin’s growth and appearance and can result in sun-related injuries.

Each time the skin is exposed to solar UV radiation and becomes tanned or burned, damage is done to individual cells and to the DNA. Some cells die. Some cells repair themselves by getting rid of damaged DNA. Cells that cannot repair themselves, eventually become defective cells. Ultraviolet radiation lowers the body’s immune system, and makes it difficult to destroy these defective cells. Defective cells that are not destroyed slowly grow and produce a tumour.

Types of UV radiation

Ultraviolet radiation is divided into the following three categories according to its wavelength and biological effect on living tissue:

  • UV-C (short wavelength): Filtered out by the ozone layer, and does not reach the earth’s surface
  • UV-B (middle of the UV spectrum): Primarily affects the skin’s outer layers and is the main cause of delayed tanning, sunburns, skin aging, and skin cancer
  • UV-A (long wavelength): Penetrate more deeply into the skin and contributes to immediate tanning, aging, photodamage and wrinkling of the skin, and skin cancer.

Health Effects of Solar UV Radiation Exposure

Acute (Short-Term) Health Effects


Sunburns are the most immediate and familiar effect of skin exposure to UV radiation. A sunburn from UV-B radiation exposure, is an inflammation caused by an increase in blood-flow beneath the skin. The skin becomes red in appearance and may display blisters and peeling in severe cases. Damage to the skin will accumulate over the exposure period, and the sunburn may not become apparent until hours after sun exposure has occurred. People, who are not accustomed to sun exposure, can develop severe sunburns with only a brief but intense sun exposure.

The skin uses tanning as a protective mechanism against solar UV radiation. As UV radiation penetrates into the cells below the skin’s surface, the skin tries to protect itself by producing a brown pigment called melanin. Melanin (which appears as a tan) tries to act as a protective shield for the skin. However, melanin is only partially effective in blocking the damaging effects of UV-A & UV-B radiation.

Any reddening of the skin is a sign that your skin has had too much sun exposure. Skin redness that persists 24 hours after exposure means that skin damage may have occurred. This is even more of a concern if soreness, peeling, and/or blistering of the skin accompany a burn. Damage to your skin cells accumulates with each sunburn over the years. Repeated burning and cells that have had DNA damage weaken the skin. This weakened skin has an increased chance of developing skin cancers.

Drug Hypersensitivity

Certain prescription drugs (tetracycline) or exposure to some industrial chemicals (coal-tar distillates) can result in hypersensitivity to UV radiation. Consult your pharmacist for details.

Chronic (Long-Term) Health Effects

Skin Cancer

A person’s risk of developing a form of skin cancer increases with excessive exposure to solar UV radiation. There are three common types of skin cancer associated with UV radiation exposure: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Important predictors in the development of basal cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma are intermittent solar UV radiation exposure and childhood/adolescent exposure, while squamous cell carcinoma is more often associated with high levels of chronic exposure. There is a general lag time of 10 to 20 years for the clinical appearance of skin cancer to occur.

Table 1

Health Effects of Solar UV Radiation Exposure: Skin Cancer

Type of Skin Cancer Occurrence Appearance Treatment
Basal Cell

  • 1 in 6 Canadians will develop this type over a lifetime
  • Common to sunlight exposed areas
  • Face: lips, eyelids, forehead, cheeks
Raised, hard, red wounds
  • Usually does not spread
  • Most cases easily treated and cured
Squamous Cell

  • 1 in 25 Canadians will develop this type over a lifetime
  • Common on skin exposed to sunlight over long periods of time
  • Often develops on areas where maximum exposure occurs
  • Foreheads, cheeks, nose, lips, ears and skin that has been damaged by the sun
  • Appearance of rough, scaly patches with small areas of open wound
  • Wounds do not heal and eventually grow larger and crust over
  • Removal with good chance of full recovery if caught in time
  • Most dangerous if forms on mucous membrances (i.e. lip)
Malignant Melanoma

  • 1 in 90 Canadians will develop this type over a lifetime
  • Least common but most dangerous form
  • May appear on parts of the body not normally exposed to the sun
  • A brief intense exposure to sunlight appears to increase the risk development for people not used to sun exposure
  • Appears as a mole or pigment spot
  • May bleed, grow, or change colour, shape or texture
  • It can develop rapidly and if not treated it can spread to other parts of the body
  • Treatable If caught early, however it can be fatal if treatment is delayed

Premature Skin Aging

Chronic exposure to solar UV radiation can cause skin damage similar to the aging process resulting in excessive wrinkling, dark spots, loss of elasticity and a leathery skin appearance.

Senile Cataracts / Eye Damage

Long-term UV radiation exposure is an important risk factor in the development of cataracts.

Immune System

Current research has indicated that exposure to UV radiation can weaken the immune system, and subsequently reduce the body’s ability to fight disease.

Risk Factors for Development of a Sun-Related Injury

There are several factors that make a person more susceptible to develop a sun-related injury, including:

  • Amount of exposure to sunlight (use of sun protection vs. no protection)
  • Skin Type / Amount of Pigment (Melanin): People with less melanin tend to be more susceptible to sun-related injuries, as the pigment present in the uppermost layers of the skin acts as one of the body’s natural defenses against solar UV radiation.
  • Susceptibility to Sunburns
  • Presence of moles: People with irregular moles, or large moles are most at risk for skin cancer development

Approved by

Occupational Health & Safety Co-ordinating Committee, (OHSCC)
Executive Management Team (EMT)

Date Approved

February 18, 2002

Revised by OHSCC

June 20, 2017

Related Information

Policy on Climate-Related Hazards – (iii) Sun Protection Policy