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Working outside is not an easy task during the summer. For many outdoor workers, this is also their busiest time as they take advantage of being able to do work in places that are covered in snow during the winter. However, high temperatures pose a risk and workers have to be aware of the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke. But did you know that the sun is considered a workplace hazard? The biggest danger to outdoor workers is actually their exposure to the sun, as they are at a 3.5 times greater risk of developing skin cancer than indoor workers.
Who is at risk?
Any person who is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is at risk of developing skin cancer. UV radiation is produced by the sun and includes UVA, UVB and UVC rays. UVA and UVB rays contribute to sunburns and skin cancer, and are able to reach the earth’s surface from the sun. UVC radiation produced by the sun is blocked by the ozone layer, but UVC rays are created artificially during industrial processes, such as welding.
Outdoor workers, such as landscapers, construction workers and farmers are at a high risk of developing skin cancer because of their prolonged exposure to the sun. However, other occupations like welders are also at risk because UV radiation in a welding arc will burn unprotected skin.
How to protect workers
Preventing sun exposure is one of the most effective ways to protect workers from the dangers of the sun. Deb has a simple 5 S approach to follow when working outside:
- Slip on sun protective clothing.
- Slop on minimum SPF30 sunscreen. It is recommended that the average adult should apply at least one teaspoon of sunscreen to each arm, leg and front and back of body; and half a teaspoon to the face (including ears and neck).
- Slap on a hat and neck protection.
- Slide on some sunglasses.
- Shade from the sun when possible.
Getting a painful sunburn, just once every two years, can triple the risk of melanoma skin cancer. According to Sun Safety at Work Canada, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada, and the rates are increasing. Make sure to always wear sunscreen when working outside to minimize the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
Check out this Sun Protection Guide for Outdoor Workers to learn more about keeping your staff safe from the sun.