You are currently viewing Protecting Ourselves From the Sun
Written by Brent Knight, CSP; President of ISS, Inc.

I just filmed a What’s Up Wednesday on the importance of protecting ourselves from the sun. This is a topic that is often overlooked, but very necessary.

My son started his first day of work last week at the Port of Edmonds and on day one, got burned on his neck, arms, and face. We asked him to apply sunscreen, but he chose not to listen. This just confirmed my argument that we need to be thinking about sunburns as we enter the summer season.

As we enter the hottest time of year, we need to remind our employees that the sun, though much welcomed after a cold and wet winter, can be dangerous if we do not protect ourselves from its damaging UV radiation.

It is estimated that approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. Research estimates that nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC), including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), affects more than three million Americans each year.

There is little doubt that site-based construction workers are at greater risk of skin cancer than many other professions. The reason for this is the outdoor nature of their work which results in higher exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Studies have found that among construction workers, only 15.1%-21.4% used sunscreen, depending on age group and other factors, while 24.5%-29.1% sought shade and only 50.7% wore any protective clothing.

The US study identified five simple protective behaviors that construction workers could use to lower their risk of developing skin cancer:

-Moving into the shade wherever possible.
-Using sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least SPF15 (some dermatologists recommend that it should be at least SPF30).
-Wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
-Wearing a long-sleeved shirt.
-Wearing long trousers (pants) or other clothing that reaches the ankles.

However you look at it, we need to educate and protect our employees from this hazard and quit relying on them to do it on their own. Maybe the best approach is to educate or create awareness, provide sunscreen and PPE, and look at administrative controls to limit the amount of sun exposure during the workday. This approach is proven and will limit the likelihood of exposures that could eventually result in skin cancer.