Protect yourself from the sun this summer

Protect yourself from the sun this summer

With 44 per cent of occupational melanoma deaths attributed to construction workers, a Swarfega survey on attitudes to sun safety proves very revealing.

1,575 hours of sunshine, high average temperatures and low rainfall: last summer was the joint hottest since records began in 1910. Sales of sun cream increased – with some brands seeing a 38 per cent rise – but this trend didn’t apply to everyone. For the professional trades warmer, sunny days can often be seen as a perk of the job – but when does UV exposure become a health risk?

Up to 80 per cent of dangerous UV rays can pass through cloud, and UV rays can cause premature ageing and wrinkles. But that’s not all.

A painful sun burn just once every two years can triple the risk of the most deadly form of skin cancer – malignant melanoma. 1,700 people are diagnosed with skin cancer caused by occupational sun exposure in Britain every year – and around 60 people die.

Shockingly, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world. For construction workers, the risk is obvious, with the vast majority working outdoors. The statistics speak for themselves; a huge 44 per cent of occupational melanoma deaths can be attributed to construction workers.

But are these statistics filtering down to employees, and did the hottest summer on record change attitudes to skin care? To investigate further, Swarfega surveyed outdoor workers – with some significant results.

The skin care expert found that just 1 in 4 outdoor workers used sun cream regularly last summer. Those who wore sun cream did wear more due to the hot weather, but the majority of those who didn’t use sun protection claimed that it was too much effort. So do attitudes need to be changed, with more awareness raised?

Most respondents knew that UV rays could still pass through cloud, but only 16 per cent would wear sun cream on these cloudy days, and 13 per cent of respondents stated that they would go without whilst on holiday.

When it comes to employer provision, 83 per cent of those who said they didn’t wear sun cream were not provided with any at work. UK employers are legally required to ensure that workers do not suffer harm or injury at work – which then also extends to taking precautions against the dangers of skin cancer.

With the weather only set to get brighter and hotter over the next few months, it is evident that both employers and employees need to make a change.

Perhaps most shockingly of all, 72 per cent of Swarfega’s respondents were unaware that one death and five new cancers per week can be attributed to occupational exposure to UV radiation.

The good news? Skin cancer is one of the easiest cancers to prevent – it’s estimated by IOSH that 90 per cent of skin cancer deaths could be prevented.

Swarfega’s sun protection tips

When it comes to effective protection against UV exposure, particularly for those working outdoors, Swarfega recommends using the ‘5 S’ approach to sun safety:

  1. SLIP on sun protective clothing – Encourage workers to keep covered up. Clothing can be one of the most effective barriers.
  2. SLOP on sun cream –Apply a broad spectrum, high SPF sun cream 20 minutes before initial exposure and re-apply every 2 hours or more frequently if sweating heavily. Water resistant creams like the TOUGH by Swarfega SPF30 Sun Cream are ideal.
  3. SLAP on a hat and neck protection – Where possible choose a hat with ear and neck protection.
  4. SLIDE on some sunglasses – Slide on a pair of high quality wrap-around sunglasses to protect the eyes.
  5. SHADE from sun where possible – Encourage workers to take breaks or work in a shaded area wherever possible ,especially from 11am-3pm.


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