1575 hours of sunshine, high average temperatures and low rainfall: last summer was the joint hottest since records began in 1910. Even on sunless days, up to 80% of dangerous UV rays can pass through cloud1, 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 deadliest form of skin cancer2 , malignant melanoma. 1700 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 world1.For construction workers, the risk is obvious, with the vast majority working outdoors. The statistics speak for themselves; a huge 44% of occupational melanoma deaths can be attributed to construction workers.
The seriousness of harmful UV rays is often ignored in the workplace, and a lack of awareness and insufficient training for those who work outdoors, can ultimately lead to a poor attitude towards sun protection.
SC Johnson Professional recently spoke to workers who exposed their feelings towards UV rays and the use of sun protection creams whilst working outdoors…
“Depending on staff levels, some days I can spend up to 6/7 hours a day outside. I’ve heard before that cloudy days can be worse because you don’t realise you’re catching the sun but because I’ve got such a bad attitude towards sun cream, it still isn’t something that I’d think to wear.” Ollie, a site manager in London
“I’ve worked in construction for the last 30 years. I don’t always wear sun cream when I work outside. I’ve been burnt more on the overcast days than the sunny days. We have common PPE that we need to wear all the time which includes hard hat, glasses and gloves. Sun cream should be made part of the PPE.” Danny, a construction worker
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. So how can we protect against the risk of skin cancer?
SC Johnson’s steps for UV Protection
When it comes to effective protection against UV exposure, particularly for those working outdoors, Swarfega recommend using the 5 S Approach to sun safety:
- SLIP on sun protective clothing – Encourage workers to keep covered up. Clothing can be one of the most effective barriers.
- 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.
- SLAP on a hat and neck protection – Where possible choose a hat with ear and neck protection.
- SLIDE on some sunglasses – Slide on a pair of high quality wrap-around sunglasses to protect the eyes.
- SHADE from sun where possible – Encourage workers to take breaks or work in a shaded area wherever possible, especially from 11am-3pm.
This approach should be combined with training tools such as toolbox talks, awareness posters and educational guides for employees, in addition to professional sun cream being made easily accessible to workers around the site.
Both workers and employees have a role to play and although UV awareness has increased in recent years, more needs to be done at both levels to combat the issue.
For more information contact Pam, our Facilities Supplies Specialist.