With the summer months upon us, it is important for employers not to underestimate the seriousness of harmful UV rays, and communicate the importance of applying sun protection to any outdoor workers.
Employees who work outdoors have a higher-than-average risk of developing skin cancer. However, a recent YouGov survey commissioned by SC Johnson Professional in April, found that 1 in 3 of participants never apply UV protection cream whilst working outdoors. Reasons cited for this include;
- they didn’t think it was necessary to do so;
- they didn’t burn easily in the sun;
- their employer fails to provide any sun protection.
Alarmingly, the survey also found that 34% of participants claimed nothing would encourage them to apply UV protection cream, with the general belief that sun protection at work in the UK is unnecessary.
Once the UV index reaches 3 or above in the UK, it is advised that sun protection measures are taken. During the summer months, the UV index regularly exceeds this level, and according to the Met Office, UV rays can be strong enough to cause sunburn between April to September. Even when it is cloudy, UV levels can be high as 80% of rays can pass through clouds. Therefore, more awareness is needed to encourage outdoors workers to use sun protection.
The survey found that 24% of participants would be encouraged to use UV protection if it was provided by their employer, and 22% stated that having accessible sun protection cream would encourage them to use it.
A study by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) found that ‘at least 1,500 new diagnoses of non-melanoma skin cancer and 240 new cases of malignant melanoma linked to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure at work every year could be avoided if businesses developed sun safety strategies’.
The Health and Safety at Work Act states that there is a legal duty on every employer to ensure, as far as reasonably practical, the health of their employees. The Management of Health and Work Regulations also requires the employer to conduct a suitable assessment of the risks to the health of their workforce, including those risks from UV radiation exposure.
In keeping with the employer’s duty of care, outdoor workers should be encouraged to:
- keep covered up during the summer months;
- wear a hat with a brim or flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck;
- stay in the shade whenever possible during breaks and particularly at lunch time when the sun is at its highest;
- use a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF15 on any exposed skin (and provide where necessary);
- drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and ensure access to a regular water supply; and
- check skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots and consult a doctor if you find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding.
Our Health, Safety & Wellbeing Consultant Joanne Howley comments:
“Staying safe in the summer is a serious subject. The health risks associated with hot weather are well known but are frequently ignored or the consequences are downplayed. It is vital that both employers and employees take this subject seriously and follow the measures outlined above.”
If you’re an employer looking for advice with regards to this or any other aspect of HR, Employment Law or Health & Safety and Wellbeing issue, please contact us on 01942 727200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free no obligation chat.