There are over a million new skin cancer patients diagnosed each year*, and 90% of these are caused by sun exposure. Yet, outdoor industries often downplay UV protection. Even companies that cautiously follow safety measures to prevent accidental death or injury overlook the importance of skin cancer prevention.
Which UV protection products are important to your industry? Here’s the story.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Skin prevention is important for all workers who spend considerable stretches of time outdoors. But some outdoor workers are at an even higher risk of skin cancer. For example, UV radiation bounces off of water and light-colored surfaces like sand, concrete, and snow. Workers who are near these areas need increased safety measures.
The same is true of workers who come into contact with certain chemicals that increase the harmful effects of UV radiation. These include asphalt, diphenyl (biphenyl), and some medications.
Sun safety precautions are also particularly important for cannabis workers. In cannabis cultivation facilities, the intense grow lights can expose workers to UV rays much higher than recommended levels. These workers should take special care to limit their skin’s direct exposure to these lights.
Choosing the Right Sunscreen
The majority of sunscreens sold in stores have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30, and many sunscreens only protect against UVB rays. For outdoor workers who are exposed to the sun on a daily and continual basis, this is insufficient. Instead, they should apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher, and they should make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely. This might mean reapplying sunscreen every two hours or more, especially if sweating freely. They should also make sure to choose a broad spectrum sunscreen, which protects from both UVA and UVB rays. One example of an ideal sunscreen for industrial purposes is Rocky Mountain’s Broad Spectrum Sunscreen.
Although some sunscreens offer mist delivery systems, these are not recommended for industrial use. The mist can result in overspray, which can remain on the floor and put workers at an increased risk of slippage and similar injuries.
Protective Hats and Clothing
Outdoor workers should also take care to wear protective clothing that adequately covers the skin. They should opt for long-sleeved shirts with a tight weave, long pants or skirts, and a brimmed hat that protects adequately against UV rays. The hat should be comfortable and contain fibers that are permanently embedded with titanium dioxide for UPF 50+ sun protection. This will keep the sun off the face, neck, and ears.
Other Protective Measures
Even workers who are cautious when it comes to wearing sunscreen and protective clothing may not realize that their lips and eyes should be protected as well. Provide workers with protective lip balm with an SPF of 15 or more in order to adequately protect their lips. (Although lip balm with SPF 30 is available, about one in four people is sensitive to it.) In addition, make sure to wear sunglasses or safety goggles that filter out ultraviolet light.
Of course, if an outdoor job can be moved inside or to a shady area, do so where possible. Even work that must stay outdoors can often take place under temporary shelter or on the shady side of a building. When possible, schedule indoor work between 10 am and 4 pm to limit sun exposure during the hours when the sun is strongest. Ensure that lunch or coffee breaks always take place in the shade or indoors.
If you are responsible for your workers’ safety, it is important that you take UV protection seriously. Consider whether those who work in your industry are at a high risk of skin cancer, and take preventative steps to ensure their long-term health and your company’s overall success.