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It is estimated by Cancer Research UK that 125,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year; the most common form of cancer in the UK which results in 2600 deaths per annum. Whilst the sun is a good source of Vitamin D, long term exposure causes skin damage and every episode of sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer. Indeed, 90% of skin cancers occur on parts of the body usually not covered by clothing; the face, hands, forearms and ears1. Guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive ‘Directors’ Responsibility for Health and Safety’ highlight that employers are legally obliged to provide a safe working environment and should include sun protection advice in routine health and safety training. The HSE states that UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for people who work outdoors. So, what can employers do to minimise exposure to the sun for those who work outside? Employers have a legal ‘duty of care’ to assess the risks of working in the sun, as well as other risks, and to take necessary preventative actions such as choose the right protective equipment and skin care products, advise employees on sun protection and how to check for early signs of skin damage, changes or abnormalities. Phil Spark, Marketing Director at Deb advises: “As Sun Safety Week approaches, it is important to look at the needs of outdoor workers. Organisations should work with companies who are experts in skin care to provide a systemised skin safety solution along with providing advice and educational materials based on the HSE’s 6-point code2.” Sunscreen is of paramount importance for helping to reduce the risks of damage to the skin and those who work outside should be encouraged to use a good quality sunscreen. But, what determines a good quality sunscreen? For outdoor working a minimum SPF of 30 is recommended; Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 means that the product will stop 95-97% of UVB rays and allow 30 times longer in the sun before burning than without it. However, it is important that the product must be applied correctly as most people use sunscreens improperly by not applying enough. Even on a cloudy day, 30-50% of the sun’s rays reach the skin so sunscreen should be liberally applied every 2-3 hours. Are there any other factors to consider when choosing a suncreen? In addition to UVB protection, it is important that the sunscreen contains UVA protection. According to the EU recommendation, the UVA protection for a specific sunscreen should be at least a third of the labelled SPF and should display the UVA logo on the packaging. Charlotte Fionda, Marketing & Business Development Director from skin cancer charity SKCIN concludes: “SKCIN welcomes the opportunity to work with Deb and we are pleased to see that outdoor workers are now able to select an efficacious sun protection product that will protect them while exposed to the sun at work; in general, the higher the SPF and in particular the higher the UVA rating, the better sun screen.” REFERENCES: 1. Health & Safety Executive; Sun Protection: Advice for Employers of Outdoor Workers 2. 6-point code: 1. Cover up – protect all exposed areas 2. Apply sunscreen to all risk areas – face, neck & arms 3. Apply to clean, dry skin 4. Apply liberally every 2-3 hours as a minimum, or more often if sweating 5. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration 6. Check skin regularly for any unusual moles, spots or other changes – report any concerns to your doctor
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