Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK2 and Britain sees 1,700 people diagnosed every year as a direct cause of occupational sun exposure3. 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 exposure4.
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 recently surveyed health and safety officials at UK companies, with 114 participating. The four-year research project by the occupational skin care, cleaning and hygiene solutions provider was 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. 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 practical, 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 outdoors5. Despite this, in their 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 2019, 136 outdoor workers participated in SC Johnson Professional’s survey regarding their UV protection habits during that summer (one of the hottest on record). It was found that only one in four wore protective sun cream whilst at work, citing the effort involved as the main reason they did not use any. In contrast to this, 72% of respondents claimed that they would use protective sun cream whilst on holiday, but only 26% would wear sun cream on cloudy days; demonstrating an awareness of the risks as well as the need for a shift in attitude when it came to protection at work.
Seeking to find out what was needed in terms of training, SC Johnson Professional found that health and safety professionals recognised the gap in knowledge yet felt unequipped to address it. One in two organisations surveyed carried out no training on when and how to use UV protection, and just 37% of them stated that they themselves had had the correct training to equip them to implement UV protection programmes in their organisations. 63% of respondents were either unsure or did not have enough information to enable them to carry out UV protection training programmes to their employees.
Training emerged a key finding from the 2020 survey. Of those health and safety professionals with a majority of employees working outdoors, one in three said that they did not have enough information to brief workers on the dangers of UV exposure and 41% stated that they wanted clearer regulatory requirements to help them with this. 43% of professionals wanted better data and information on the risks posed by UV radiation in the UK.
Taking these insights on board, SC Johnson Professional developed a suite of easy-to-use training resources, specifically designed for employees who work outdoors and for health and safety professionals to implement as part of a skin care training programme.
Ideal for raising awareness around the risks of over exposure to the sun and advising on best practice, the training includes a range of resources. Toolbox Talks help health and safety professionals to deliver quality, informative training, and videos illustrate real-life case studies and simple facts to bring home the reality of over-exposure. The training highlights the ‘5 S approach’ – slip, slop, slap, slide and shade – an approach which can significantly contribute to the prevention of excessive UV exposure.
At this time of year in particular, it is key that more awareness is raised around both the potential dangers of over-exposure to UV radiation, as well as the importance of educating workers. A painful sunburn just once every two years can triple the risk of the deadliest form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma6 – it is crucial that health and safety professionals are aware of these risks and are equipped to best prevent their workforce from harm or injury in the workplace.
Find out more about SC Johnson Professional’s products or download training material here.
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.