Minimizing the risks
Outdoor workers should consider the following four steps to minimize their risks of skin cancer:
- Seek shade whenever possible.
- Cover up by keeping shirts, hats, and sunglasses on (if possible).
- Use sun protection that is at least SPF30 daily—especially between March and August—and make sure to reapply regularly throughout the day.
- Perform routine self-examinations to check for unusual moles or spots.
Employers should also adopt the following strategies as part of their employee health and safety strategies:
- Include sun protection guidance in routine health and safety training and make appropriate sun screen products available at each facility or company vehicle.
- Incorporate sun exposure as part of the hazard risk assessment.
- Require workers to follow the four-step process outlined above.
- Make fresh drinking water available to workers and encourage them to drink regularly to avoid dehydration.
Understanding sunscreen protection
When time spent in the sun cannot be avoided, having a good understanding of sunscreen protection is crucial. Sunscreens of at least SPF30 are recommended and should be labelled broad spectrum to protect against both UV-A (aging) and UV-B (burning) rays. Sunscreens with a higher SPF rating may block slightly more UV rays; however, it is important to keep in mind that no sunscreen can offer 100 per cent protection.
Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied regularly throughout the day. It should also be reapplied after 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, and immediately after towel drying (or at least every two hours).
Additionally, the proper amount of sunscreen for an adult full-body application is two to three tablespoons—or about a shot glass full. Workers should make sure to cover all areas of exposed skin, including the face, arms, top of the head, and behind the ears, as 90 per cent of skin cancers occur on parts of the body that are not typically covered by clothing.
The dangers associated with sun exposure, particularly for outdoor workers, is sometimes overlooked in the workplace. Education is the key to prevention; therefore, it is important to work with a partner or vendor who can provide the right products and guidance. A supplier should be able to work closely with employers to put strategies and systems in place to help educate and protect outdoor workers.
|Detecting skin cancer|
|According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is “the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.” Much of the damage to DNA in skin cells results from ultraviolet (UV) radiation found in sunlight. This damage can happen years before cancer develops.
Like many other forms of this disease, skin cancers start as precancerous lesions. These lesions are changes in the skin that are not cancer, but can become cancer over time. For this reason, it is important to know the signs and symptoms to be prepared.
Workers must check their skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. The ‘ABCDE’ rule of melanoma is one method outdoor workers can use to do this. A melanoma can grow anywhere on the body, so workers should check themselves from head to toe, about once a month, for any changes or abnormalities.
A = asymmetry—when one-half of the mole does not match the other.
Fortunately, malignant melanoma is curable if found and treated early. A delay in diagnosis can result in the malignant melanoma spreading to other spots and organs within the body. If workers have any of the above signs or symptoms, they should consult their doctor immediately.
Isabelle Faivre is vice-president of marketing, at Deb (part of SC Johnson Professional), which provides employers with skincare programs that maximize employee participation through carefully devised, reliable skincare systems. She holds extensive away-from-home market experience and a bachelor of science in international marketing from McGill University and Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Commerciales d’Angers (ESSCA), a French business school. For more information on effective strategies for improving workplace hygiene and safety, please visit www.debgroup.com. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.