Deb: The Hidden Risks of Working in the Sun

Deb: The Hidden Risks of Working in the Sun

Deb explains the risks posed by sun exposure and the importance of using protection

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with over 100,000 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year. Shockingly, six people die from skin cancer a day in the UK – a higher death toll than Australia, a country with a naturally warmer climate.

What is particularly frustrating when examining UK statistics is that 90 per cent of skin cancer deaths could have been prevented if the proper precautions had been taken.

For the diagnosis and death toll to dramatically reduce, the risk that sun exposure poses must first be understood. Then, people can choose to protect themselves against it.

When it comes to being UV aware, a lack of proper education is the downfall for many. For example, it is often wrongly assumed that the sun has to be shining for your skin to be damaged, when in fact 100 per cent of UVA rays pass through clouds, meaning sun protection is crucial even on overcast days.

It is also wrongly assumed that one application of sun cream is enough to withstand an entire day’s sun exposure, when in fact, it must be liberally reapplied every two to three hours.

It is this lack of knowledge on the impacts of sun exposure which is causing the death toll to dramatically ascend.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who spends a large portion of their day outside is at risk of skin cancer, which places outdoor workers in the danger zone, as they typically spend seven hours or more a day outside.

Landscapers, builders, roofers, gardeners; five people from outdoor professions such as these are diagnosed with skin cancer each day, due to sun exposure at work.

Interestingly, when outdoor workers are on holiday, 90 per cent apply sun cream. But, when it comes to their everyday work, this drops to just 59 per cent.

Workers may feel that the threat of sun damage is minimal when in the UK, home to a typically cooler climate, or it could simply be something which they choose not to prioritise when busy at work.

Education and protection

Better protection against this life-threatening and highly preventable disease is crucial and employees should firstly be aware of the UV Index.

Developed by the World Health Organisation, the UV Index is a forecast which identifies the strength of UV radiation from the sun at a particular time.

When the index reaches three, a minimum SPF30 sun cream with broad spectrum UVA protection is essential.

The 5 S’s of sun safety should also be adhered to by outdoor workers. That is to slip on a protective layer of clothing when outside, slop on a high-factor sun cream, slap on a hat, slide on some sunglasses and obtain shade whenever possible.

Workers must receive training on sun safety and its importance. This compliancy to safety regulations has wavered in recent years, and it has been shockingly revealed that 70 per cent of outdoor workers have received no training at all on sun safety in the workplace.

Implement training for all concerned, and place sun cream dispensers and educational material across your workplace, and you will not only have a more informed set of employees, who are aware of the risks that the sun can carry, but they will also be healthier, happier, and will have minimised their risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer.

Image copyright: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

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