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UV protection: a key part of workplace health and safety

A survey recently completed by SC Johnson ProfessionalTM showed that only one in four outdoor workers wore sun protection cream during 2018’s summer months – despite this being one of the hottest summers on record with above average hours of sunshine.

Protecting the skin is a key part of effective health and safety practice for manual workers – but is enough importance given to protection against UV?
The statistics may suggest otherwise. According to IOSH, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world, and a huge 1,700 people are diagnosed with skin cancer as a direct result of occupational sun exposure in Britain every year1. Around 60 of these diagnosed cases are fatal2 and an alarming 44% of occupational melanoma deaths can be attributed to construction workers3. Those who work on the move or spend a lot of time on the road are not exempt; UVA rays can penetrate most types of glass windows, potentially leading to premature skin ageing.
The results from a survey by SC Johnson ProfessionalTM suggest that the majority of those who worked outdoors last summer did not apply sun protection, which may well have led to a painful sun burn. The seriousness of this cannot be understated – a sunburn like this just once every two years can triple the risk of malignant melanoma4 . 
84% of respondents said that they would go without sun cream on cloudy days, despite most being aware that UV rays could still pass through cloud – but on holiday just 13% would skip the sun cream. A change in attitude is therefore needed when it comes to UV protection, with workers being aware to some extent of the dangers, but not applying this to workplace behaviours.
Further to this, 72% of respondents said they didn’t know as many as one death and five new cancers per week can be attributed to occupational exposure to UV radiation, strongly suggesting that awareness needs to be raised of the dangers of UV radiation at work. 
SC Johnson ProfessionalTM’s survey also found that for 87% of non-wearers of sun cream there was no protection cream made available at the workplace, despite a legal requirement for UK employers to ensure that employees do not suffer harm or injury at work.  Of the people that did wear sun cream at work, 27% were provided it by their employer, demonstrating that simply providing access to sun cream on the job could have a positive impact on workers’ attitudes.
We are approaching the time of year where UV levels will be at their highest, so it is vital that workplace sun safety provision is up to scratch. When it comes to raising awareness, free resources are available from SC Johnson ProfessionalTM here, which can be very effective tools when coupled with the supply of appropriate product.
SC Johnson ProfessionalTM recommends that employees adapt the 5 S approach to sun safety:
  1. SLIP on sun protective clothing: Encourage workers to keep covered up. Clothing can be one of the most effective barriers.
  2. SLOP on sun cream: Apply a broad spectrum, minimum SPF30 sun cream 20 minutes before initial exposure and re-apply every 2 hours or more frequently if sweating heavily. 
  3. SLAP on a hat and neck protection: Where possible choose a hat with ear and neck protection. 
  4. SLIDE on some sunglasses: Slide on a pair of high-quality wrap-around sunglasses to protect the eyes.
  5. SHADE from sun where possible: Encourage workers to take breaks or work in a shaded area wherever possible, especially from 11am-3pm.

Find out more information or request a free consultation on SC Johnson ProfessionalTM’s here.


1 IOSH No Time to Lose Campaign
2 IOSH No Time to Lose Campaign


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