THE CHARTERED body for health and safety professionals has warned that thousands of skin cancer cases in the UK could be prevented if businesses develop ‘sun safety strategies’.
1,500 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) and 240 new cases of malignant melanoma linked to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure at work are diagnosed in Britain each year. According to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) 90 per cent of these deaths can be prevented if businesses – and their employees – take proper precautions.
Sun Awareness Week
As part of sun awareness week, this week (6-12 May 2019), the IOSH is urging employers to save lives by developing ‘sun safety strategies’ that include regular updates on the UV index from weather forecasts, minimising sun exposure in the middle of the day, potentially swapping jobs among team members at regular intervals, and asking employees to wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting tops and trousers.
Mary Ogungbeje, Research Manager at IOSH, said: “Both malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer are on the rise in Britain and Europe and sun exposure is the main cause. In Britain alone, skin cancer kills 60 workers a year, and outdoor workers are particularly at risk due to the nature of their roles.
“However, the majority of skin cancer deaths can be prevented if people control their exposure to solar UV radiation. There are a range of ways businesses can adapt to better protect workers, from minimising exposure to direct sunlight in the middle part of the day to ensuring outdoor workers wear appropriate clothing.”
IOSH says it is vital managers, workers and the wider public understand the importance of good sun safety and make efforts to mitigate the risks.
Mary continued, “Through our No Time to Lose (NTTL) campaign, we’re raising awareness of occupational cancer and some of the most common causes, including solar radiation. To help businesses develop sun safety strategies, we’ve developed a range of free practical resources to help prevent exposure.”
NTTL Paris Summit
IOSH presented the solar radiation phase of NTTL in Paris last month during a multi-stakeholder summit on occupational skin cancer.
The summit brought together a group of high-level representatives from medical and public health organisations, patient advocacy groups and trade unions to discuss how to improve workplace sun safety, provide earlier and better access to treatments and improve reporting and registration of NMSC cases.
The event revealed that:
- Non-melanoma skin cancer is the world’s most frequently diagnosed cancer, with an estimated 2-3 million cases registered every year, and;
- The economic impact of work-related UVR is significant, with the annual healthcare costs in Europe estimated to be as high as €853 million per year.
Outdoor workers in construction are regularly exposed to UVR for more than 75 per cent of their daily working hours. It is estimated that the risk of developing skin cancer increases significantly with five or more years of outdoor work.
Over 120 businesses worldwide have signed IOSH’s pledge to tackle occupational cancer. Sign up to the No Time to Lose pledge here.