If you work outdoors a lot, you should think about adequate UV protection. But do you have to bear the costs yourself or is your employer responsible for protecting your skin?

Whether on construction sites, in the swimming pool or as a landscape gardener: Especially in spring and summer, employees who work outdoors are exposed to a high UV index. You should protect yourself as best you can from the effects of the sun on your skin. But who actually has to worry about UV protective clothing and sunscreen?

“Occupational safety is an employer matter,” says Peter Meyer, a specialist lawyer for labor law in Berlin. This can be derived from paragraph 618 of the German Civil Code – according to which the employer must install hazard protection at the workplace to prevent employees from becoming ill. “The costs is borne by the employer,” says Meyer.

In principle, this principle also applies to sun protection. Employees are entitled to this, says the specialist lawyer – provided they work outdoors.

The subject of sun protection then has several levels. “As an employer, you have to provide information about skin protection and offer preventive measures,” says Meyer. This could include skin cancer screening for employees as an occupational medical examination that is billed to the employer.

In addition, the so-called TOP principle applies: The abbreviation stands for the order in which protective measures must be taken: first technical, then organizational, then personal.

In concrete terms, this means that the employer must first take care of technical sun protection measures. “For example, UV-resistant tarpaulins under which road construction workers work,” says Meyer.

At the organizational level, measures to protect against UV radiation can include, for example, not working outdoors between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. on days when the UV index exceeds certain values. Instead, the working hours are shifted to the morning or evening hours when the UV radiation is lower. “But that’s not always feasible,” says Meyer.

That leaves the personal protective measures: This includes, for example, that the employer provides sunscreen with a high sun protection factor and takes care of UV protection work clothing for the employees. This can also include gloves, sunglasses, helmets with neck protection or special functional shirts. “The employer bears the costs,” says Meyer.

About the person: Peter Meyer is a specialist lawyer for labor law and a member of the executive committee of the labor law working group in the German Bar Association (DAV).