Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK and Britain sees 1700 people diagnosed every year as a direct cause of occupational sun exposure.
Despite growing awareness of the risk of unprotected UV exposure, a study conducted by SC Johnson Professional found that 76% of UK health and safety professionals were unaware of the danger, stating that they did not know that one death and five new cases of skin cancer per week in Britain could be attributed to occupational UV exposure.
Along with lack of awareness, these professionals did not feel equipped to properly train workers, including in the utilities sector, which has the highest proportion of employees who regularly worked outdoors. Three-quarters of respondents working in this sector felt they did not have enough information to enable them to deliver UV protection training programmes to their employees.
Especially during the summer months, it is key that awareness is raised around the potential dangers of over-exposure to UV radiation, among both employees and health and safety professionals. Building on studies conducted in 2017 and 2019 with outdoor workers, SC Johnson Professional last year surveyed health and safety officials at UK companies, with 114 participating. The four-year research project by the occupational skin care company is intended to understand the gaps in awareness of outdoor workers, discover what employers are doing and the challenges they are facing along with providing recommendations on best practice for employers in providing protective skin creams.
Among the key findings, one in three health and safety professionals stated that their organisation did not provide any UV protection to outdoor workers. Despite still leaving a third of the workforce vulnerable, outdoor workers themselves painted a starker picture: two in three said their organisation did not provide UV protection to them in the 2019 survey.
Lack of provision may be due to the fact that 40% of these professionals claimed that employees provided their own UV protection. This result was despite the Health and Safety at Work Act, which states that every employer has a legal duty to safeguard, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health of their employees. According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines, UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for those who work outdoors. Despite this, in its 2019 survey SC Johnson Professional discovered that 87% of non-wearers of sun cream stated that there was no UV protection product made available in their workplace. Of those who did use sun cream however, only 27% were provided with product by their employer.
Further to this, when asked why they felt that a large number of employees did not use UV protection, 45% of health and safety professionals admitted that this was due to a lack of awareness around the dangers of UV exposure. However, it was concerning that 30% of the respondents said that it was due to a general belief that UV protection at work in the UK is unnecessary.
In February 2020 skin care experts SC Johnson Professional surveyed health and safety professionals on UV practice and protection in their workplace, building on worker research conducted over the previous two years. Striving to deliver enhanced training and end user support, as well as looking to raising awareness of this important issue, SC Johnson Professional’s research aimed to learn more about general UV awareness in industry, what protection was provided to employees, if and how training was implemented and what health and safety professionals were looking for in terms of best practice guidance.