IOSH urges workers to take care in the sun

19 July 2016

With temperatures rising above 30C today (Tuesday 19 July), IOSH is reminding people of the risks associated with exposure to solar radiation.

The Institution is running a campaign, called No Time to Lose, to raise awareness of cancer-causing agents including solar radiation and provide advice on managing the associated risks.

It is estimated that malignant melanoma kills nearly 50 people each year in the UK because of exposure to solar radiation at work, with 240 new cases being registered, according to the research by Imperial College London.

As part of the campaign, IOSH has produced advice to help businesses and their employees follow simple measures which can be put in place to control the risks.

There are many ways that the risks can be minimised, including:

  • Checking the UV index and communicating information to relevant workers, alongside prompting staff to use protective measures to minimise exposure. Action should be taken when the index is at three or above.
  • Avoiding outdoor work, or minimising exposure to direct sunlight in the middle part of the day (60 per cent of daily UV radiation occurs between 10am and 2pm. Many advise minimising exposure until at least 3pm).
  • Regularly swapping job tasks between workers to make sure everyone on the team can spend some time in the shade.
  • Using a heavy duty cover or shade when working outdoors in the sun.
  • Ensuring rest breaks are taken in shaded areas or indoors – siting water points in shaded areas or indoors can help encourage breaks to be taken out of the sun.
  • Wearing long-sleeved, loose-fitting tops and trousers when working outdoors.
  • Wearing wide-brimmed hats that shade the face, head, ears and neck. If safety helmets are worn, use those fitted with Legionnaire-style neck flaps.
  • Wearing sunglasses with 100 per cent UV.
  • Using high-factor sunscreen. This should only be used alongside other protective measures.
  • Encouraging workers to check their skin for changes to moles or other changes.
  • Holding training sessions to raise awareness of solar radiation issues with workers.

Kate Field, head of information and intelligence at IOSH, said: “Just because someone works outdoors does not mean they should be put at risk of the effects of solar radiation.

>“Work-related skin cancer is avoidable, and employers and employees hold the key to beating it. There are many simple steps that they can take to control the risks. Taking these steps will protect not only the employer, but the business as well.”

Businesses can sign a pledge to the No Time to Lose campaign to examine whether any activities could put employees at risk of contracting cancer and to do what they can to control any risks identified.

For more information on the campaign and to access free resources to raise awareness of solar radiation exposure visit www.notimetolose.org.uk

The warm weather also brings the risk of exhaustion and heat stroke. The NHS has advice for people on minimising the risk, at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Heat-exhaustion-and-heatstroke/Pages/Introduction.aspx  

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