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The summer season never seems to last long enough in Canada, so for industries from construction and roadwork, to landscaping, window cleaning and more this is the busiest time of year. Working outside at any time of year is tough, 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 people who work indoors.
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 can be created artificially during some industrial processes, such as welding.
Outdoor workers, such as landscapers, construction workers, window washers, facility maintenance personnel and farmers, are at a high risk of developing skin cancer because of their prolonged exposure to the sun.
How to protect workers
Preventing sun exposure is one of the most effective ways to protect workers from the dangers of the sun. Encouraging employees to wear loose clothing to help keep them cool and recommending that they always wear a hat (if protective headgear is not already required) is a good place to start. Providing education on sunscreen use is important, too. Many people don’t realize that sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before sun exposure, to enable the product to be absorbed by the skin.
Deb recommends a simple, five-step approach they call the “5 S Approach” to help outdoor workers remember how to protect themselves 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. Be sure your employees are aware of the risk, and provide them with the information they need to know how to protect themselves.
Check out this Sun Protection Guide for Outdoor Workers to learn more about keeping your employees safe from the sun.