Outdoor workers reminded of skin cancer risk

Greater risk for outdoor workers in developing skin cancer.

Wearing a hat and long-sleeved shirt while working outdoors can help prevent sun exposure.

With the hot summer months comes the peak in the number of outdoor workers who are vulnerable to skin cancer.

WorkSafeBC and Sun Safety at Work Canada have partnered together to spread awareness, calling attention to the dangers of sun exposure.

“Employers have an obligation to protect workers against the elements. Those elements might be cold stress in the winter months, it might be heat stress and hot environments in summer months and in certain occupations throughout the year but it also relates to sun and UV light,” said Vice-President of Prevention Services at WorkSafeBC Al Johnson.

He said they wanted to put out this reminder to people now — for the most part targeting those working outside when the UV index is higher.

WorkSafeBC stated that between 2011 and 2015 they accepted six claims of malignant skin cancer caused by work related sun exposure.

“Now six may not seem like a significantly high number but we’re in the business of prevention, so one serious injury or one death is one too many…” said Johnson.

He said they tied the reminder to some of the research that’s been done by CAREX (CARcinogen EXposure). CAREX is a multi-institution research project combining expertise and resources to generate an evidence-based carcinogen surveillance program for the country. They found that around 1.5 million Canadians are exposed to sun on the job. Last year, 85,000 Canadians were diagnosed with skin cancer with the rate increasing.

“It really starts with the employer…” said Johnson when it comes to precautions.

He said the employer really needs to identify and recognize if their workers are at risk — if they’re working outside and if they fall into that area where they could be over exposed to an excessive amount of sun.

Once the employer identifies that, he said, they can then put together a program to ensure that their workers aren’t over exposed.

This can relate to providing awareness to their employees, providing sunscreen and areas where employees can take a break under shade, versus being in the sun. They can also provide or encourage workers to wear protective clothing such as loose fitting items, hats and sunglasses.

“The employer has an obligation under the regulation (B.C’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation) to do all of that, but it’s also the worker (that) has an obligation and a responsibility to then use the equipment or the sunscreen and the hats that are provided so to speak.

“So it’s very much a shared obligation between the employer and the worker.”

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