Using safe procedures around power tools and on scaffolding is pretty much second nature for any experienced mason.  But a lot of folks who work outdoors forget about sun safety.  Unlike tool injuries or falls, which can happen in an instant, sun damage may not even be felt when it’s happening, and it may take decades to cause problems so it’s much easier to ignore.

Skin cancers are the most common form of cancers in humans, and the main cause is ultraviolet light (UV), which is in sunlight.  The more UV light you expose your skin to, the more likely you are to develop skin cancer at some point in your life.

And it’s not just your skin that can get burnt.  Your eyes can suffer sun damage that can lead to cataracts or even blindness

So here’s how to keep safe in the sun.

Wear a hat.  A wide brimmed hat is best because it keeps the sun off your ears and neck as well as your face.  Ears, nose and cheeks where the skin is thin are especially sensitive to sun.

Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants.  You can buy lightweight shirts and pants now that keep you cool but don’t let the sun in.

Wear sunglasses that are rated to stop both UV-A and UV-B ultraviolet rays.  And make sure they’re wraparounds that protect the sides of your eyes.  If you’re squinting while you’re outside, you should be wearing sunglasses.

Always wear sunscreen on any exposed skin and reapply it at least every 4 hours.  More often if you’re sweating a lot.  If you’re wearing a thin cotton T-shirt, put on sunblock under the shirt because a T-shirt gives you very little protection. Dark skinned people and people who tan well often think they don’t need sunscreen, but dark skin only slows down the rate of sun damage, it doesn’t prevent it.

Finally, if you’ve been working in the sun for years, and especially if you’ve ever gotten a bad sunburn, be sure to look for signs of skin cancer.  Most skin cancers are easily curable if they’re caught in time, which is especially important if you get a type of cancer called melanoma.  Melanomas can spread quickly to other parts of your body and can even be fatal.  Look for changes in skin color or texture such as a thickening of the skin, a dark spot or mole-like growth that appears suddenly, or a sore that won’t heal.  If you don’t see a dermatologist, start going to one every six months for a full body check.

Thanks to sunblock, sunglasses, lightweight clothing and modern medicine, it’s easy to be sun safe.

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