Staying Safe - Solar Radiation/UV Exposure

Staying Safe - Solar Radiation/UV Exposure

  • Date: Tuesday 16th July 2019
  • PDF: Download

With more than 1,500 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 240 cases of malignant melanoma linked to solar radiation reported each year in Britain, it is important employers understand their responsibility and legal duty of care when protecting their team from UV radiation.

Solar radiation is the radiant energy emitted by the sun and is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen.    UV should be considered an occupational hazard for those who work outdoors however there is a common misconception that the weather in the UK is not sunny enough to pose a high risk of skin cancer to outdoor workers. In fact, the strength of solar radiation is not connected to temperature and up to 80% of dangerous UV rays can still get through heavy cloud.

The UV element of Solar radiation can lead to premature aging, wrinkles, sunburn and skin cancer if precautions aren’t taken to protect skin when outside.  Symptoms associated with skin cancer include a scaly patch of hard skin, a red lump/spot, an ulcer, a new mole or area of skin which bleeds/oozes/has a crust.  Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world, and cases in the UK are rising faster than the rest of Europe.

What should we do to reduce exposure?

  • Be aware of solar radiation / UV exposure issues
  • Check the UV index on a daily basis - take an appropriate action if the index is 3 or above
  • Avoid outdoor work / minimise exposure to direct sunlight in the middle part of the day (60 per cent of UK radiation occurs between 10am and 2pm)
  • Provide shade - take rest breaks in shaded areas or indoors - regularly rotate job tasks to ensure everyone can spend some time in the shade / indoors
  • Keep your top on when working outdoors and use a high factor sunscreen.  Wear a hat that covers ears and back of the neck.  If safety helmets are worn use those fitted with Legionnaire-style neck flaps
  • Bear in mind - 90% of skin cancer deaths could be prevented by controlling UV exposure
  • Regularly check skin for change to moles.  See a doctor promptly if you find anything that is changing in shape, size, colour, itching or bleeding

For further guidance, download the Skincare Best Practice eBook, which is available from the HSE website.

Source: SHP Online

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