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Stay protected in the sun

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People who work outdoors are at increased risk of skin cancer from sun exposure, making it essential they are trained to protect themselves.


Experts believe that 90 per cent of all skin cancer deaths could be prevented, if over-exposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation from sunlight is controlled.

Summer has arrived in the UK and with it we could see a UV index of up to 8, which is classed as ‘very high’. It is vital to remember that additional protection against UV exposure is recommended for a UV index of 3 and above.

Experts believe that 90 per cent of all skin cancer deaths could be prevented, if over-exposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation from sunlight is controlled. Photograph: SC Johnson

Additionally, the UV index can still be high even when the sun is not out as even when it is cloudy up to 80 per cent of the sun’s rays can pass through.

Those who work outdoors, such as construction workers and farmers, can be at particularly high risk of over-exposure to UV rays in sunlight, especially during the summer months. They spend the majority of their working day exposed to a silent threat to the health of their skin.

When it comes to employers’ responsibilities, the Health and Safety at Work Act states there is a legal duty to safeguard, as far as is reasonably practical, the health of employees. It also states that employers must provide “information, instruction, training and supervision” to ensure their workforce’s safety.

Also, the Management of Health and Work Regulations 1999 require employers to conduct a suitable assessment of the risks to the health of their workforce, including risks from UV radiation.

Finally, according to Health and Safety Executive guidelines, UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for those who work outdoors.

SC Johnson Professional recently surveyed health and safety practitioners at UK companies on attitudes to protecting workers from UV, with 114 participating. The four-year research project was designed to understand the gaps in awareness and any challenges employers face.

It found that safety professionals knew there was a gap in employees’ knowledge and training about the risks from UV and how to protect themselves, but were unsure of how to tackle this. In fact, one in two organisations surveyed did not provide any training to workers on when and how to use UV protection.

A skin care programme is essential when it comes to raising employee awareness around the risks and encouraging proper skin protection against UV rays. Informative training on best practice can be delivered via ‘Toolbox Talks’, and video case studies can help underline real world examples of how over-exposure can impact on health.

The training should also highlight the ‘5 S approach’ – slip, slop, slap, slide and shade. This approach – which involves precautions like applying sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 30 or above and covering the skin with clothing and hats – can significantly prevent excessive UV exposure at work.

SC Johnson Professional offers free UV training materials and products to help workers stay protected: scjp.com/en-gb/uv-protection-best-practice

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