Occupation Health Hazards Of UV Radiation

What is UV Radiation?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation comes from the sun as well as manmade sources like tanning beds. There are 3 main types of UV rays:  

  • UVA rays: are linked to wrinkles and likely play a role in some skin cancers.  
  • UVB rays: are stronger than UVA rays. They damage skin DNA and are the main cause of sunburns. Thought to cause most skin cancers.  
  • UVC rays: are the strongest of all UV rays, but they are not in sunlight and don’t enter our atmosphere.  

Some devices like welding torches can emit UV Radiation.

Why Is UV Radiation Harmful?

Based on what’s known today, there are no safe UV rays. UV radiation is absorbed in the skin and adverse health effects are mostly confined to the skin, eyes and immune systems. It is well known that UV radiation is linked to skin cancer and linked to eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. There is research indicating UV Rays can suppress one’s immune system, therefore encouraging infections.

How Does UV Radiation Harm My Body?

Some UV exposure is essential for good health and stimulates vitamin D production in the body. For example, UV lamps can be used in medical treatments for treating psoriasis.  

However, excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun is associated with different types of skin cancer, sunburn, accelerated skin aging, as well as cataracts and other eye diseases. Medium wave UV-B causes skin burns and prolonged exposures increase the risk of skin cancer. Longwave UV-A radiation is less intense and causes premature aging.  

If you take certain medications (i.e. high blood pressure medications, tetracycline antibiotics) or work with certain chemicals, they can act as a photosensitizing agent and enhance the effects of UV radiation. Check medications for photosensitivity risks.  

Eyes are sensitive to UV radiation. Injuries to the eye from UV Exposure include “flash burn", "ground-glass eyeball", "welder's flash", and "snow blindness". Symptoms include eye pain, feelings of sand in the eye, and an aversion to bright light. 

Photokeratitis is caused by damage to the eye from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Photokeratitis can be caused by sun reflection from sand, water, ice, and snow.  Its relative to having a sunburn to the eye.  

Who Needs To Be Concerned About the Occupational Hazards of UV Radiation?

Many factors affect your risk of developing adverse health effects from sun exposure.  People who spend a lot of time outside for work without protective clothing and sunscreen are at an elevated risk. People who live in year-round sunny climates a higher risk of skin cancer. Frequent sunburns in childhood may increase the risk for some types of skin cancer many years or even decades later. 

How to Prevent UV Radiation in the Workplace 

If your job requires you to work outside, it’s important that you wear protective clothing and sunscreen to prevent UV exposure. If you work with chemicals, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the safety data sheets and carefully read labels as certain chemicals can enhance the effects of UV radiation.


Elevate the level of occupational health standards for your company.