Summer is in full swing, and that means some extremely warm weather! July and August are typically the hottest months of the year, and those who work outdoors are exposed to hours of the sun’s strong ultraviolet (UV) rays. In May’s blog
, we discussed heat-related illnesses, but don’t forget another possible cause of too much sun. Since the sun is the primary cause of skin cancer, outdoor workers are at the highest risk.
Even though cancers caused by a person’s work are generally taken seriously, skin cancer isn’t often thought of as an occupational disease. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to minimize risk of harm to employees.
• Avoiding sun exposure as much as possible between 10am and 4pm
• Wearing long sleeves, long pants and a hat that shades your face, ears, neck with a brim all around
• Using broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and can filter both UVA and UVB rays
• Wearing sunglasses that filter UV rays to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes
Some of these steps may be difficult to follow if you are an outdoor worker, which includes such occupations as construction, agriculture and landscaping. Most work hours are during the heat of the day, so what steps can employers take to help protect their outdoor workers from the harmful UV rays?
Here are a few strategies to increase sun protection:
• Schedule breaks in the shade and allow workers to reapply sunscreen throughout their shifts
• Modify the work site by increasing the amount of shade available – tents, shelters, cooling stations
• Create work schedules that minimize sun exposure – schedule outdoor tasks early morning or evening time and rotate workers to reduce their UV exposure
• Add sun safety to workplace policies and trainings
• Provide free sunscreen, uniforms that offer ample body coverage and UV-blocking sunglasses
In the United States, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other forms of cancer combined with one in five Americans getting skin cancer by the age of 70. Every year, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer in the U.S., which costs an estimate $8.1 billion annually. It’s in the employers’ best interests, and it’s an OSHA requirement, to keep their workers safe, including keeping them safe from the intense rays of the summer sun.