The silent killer: why it’s time to get sun-smart for outdoor workers

4th July 2022 Posted in Blogs

Occupational skin cancer is on the rise with two out of three workers unaware they are at risk of skin cancer resulting in many not applying adequate protection whilst working outdoors.

Whilst sun exposure can happen all year round, during summer the sun’s rays pose a serious risk to outdoor workers’ health with excessive UV exposure responsible for over 60 worker deaths in the UK however 90% of these deaths are preventable with the right education and safety measures in place.

Many organisations believe they already have in place the right measures to protect their workers from sun exposure however many workers do not follow protocol and lack sufficient training on the risks of working outdoors, added to this is the common misconception that the UK is not sunny enough to pose a high risk however this is simply not true, 90% of dangerous UV rays still get through light cloud and the strength of the sun is not connected to temperature.

The HSE strongly advises employees in the construction sector to have policies in place that relate to occupational health strategy and provision. It states there should be arrangements in place to identify causes and employers should provide their employees with information about the precautions they can take as well as signs and symptoms.

There’s a need for education too, in an industry which is male-dominated, it is important to address stigma around ‘skin care’ being unmanly, moving the focus away from aesthetics and beauty and into skin care as a health priority and organisations can do this by introducing a dedicated skin care programme to support the health of outdoor workers on an ongoing basis meaning protecting skin against the sun becomes the norm.

The most obvious serious consequence as a result of poor prevention is of course skin cancer, with 240 cases of malignant melanoma linked to solar radiation exposure at work every year in the UK. Meanwhile, the costs of paying an employee who is absent due to occupational skin disease along with any other overall losses relating to their absence can soon add up making investing in skincare and outdoor worker health essential the alternative can literally be deadly.

Need support getting sun smart? we can help, whether you need to update your policies, put prevention in place or offer training to your teams. Get in touch for a free consultation.


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