Seafarers face unique challenges when it comes to sun safety and managing heat-related risks on vessels due to prolonged exposure to the sun and the potentially harsh conditions at sea.

The ocean’s surface can reflect up to 17% of the sun’s UV radiation, intensifying exposure for those on deck. Even on cloudy days, UV radiation can penetrate clouds and reflect off water, increasing the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

Continuous exposure to Ultra Violet (UV) radiation increases the risk of skin damage and skin cancer, while heat also poses other pitfalls such as dehydration, heat stroke, and fatigue.

As an expert in global health, consultancy COLUMBIA pure advises how to stay safe on board and has the following tips to beat the heat:

Wear Protective Clothing

The need to cover up as much skin as possible cannot be stressed enough. Lightweight, breathable clothing is best and look for clothing with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating for added sun protection.

Use Sunscreen

It goes without saying that sunscreen with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30 should be applied to all exposed skin before heading out into the sun. This includes the face, neck, ears, and hands. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or more frequently if sweating.

Wear A Hat And Sunglasses

Seafarers should protect their face, neck, and eyes by wearing sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays and also have a head covering.

Seek Shade

Whenever possible, crew members should take breaks in shaded areas, especially during peak sun hours between 10am and 4pm.

Stay Hydrated

It is important to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated, especially in hot and humid conditions. Crew members should avoid excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol, as they can contribute to dehydration.

Take Regular Breaks

Schedule regular breaks in cool, shaded areas to rest and cool down. This is particularly important during strenuous activities or when working in hot environments.

Cooling Measures

Cooling towels, misting fans, or other cooling products can be used to help regulate body temperature and prevent heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Know The Signs Of Heat Illness

Seafarers should familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, such as dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, and confusion. Immediate action should be taken if any crew member shows signs of heat illness.

Stay Informed

The saying goes that ‘forewarned is forearmed’, so seafarers monitor weather forecasts and heat advisories to stay informed about potentially hazardous conditions. They can then take appropriate precautions based on the forecasted conditions.

Train Crew Members

All crew members should receive training on sun safety and heat-related risks, including how to recognise and respond to heat-related illnesses.

Early Diagnosis

Skin cancer can develop slowly over time, and symptoms may not become apparent until the disease has progressed, so seafarers should remain alert to any changes in their skin as the earlier any problems are treated the better the outcome usually is. Symptoms may include changes in the size, shape, or colour of moles or skin lesions, new growths, or sores that don’t heal.

By following these safety tips and taking proactive measures, seafarers can protect themselves effectively from the sun and manage heat-related risks while working at sea.