Sun Damage

The government’s health watchdog has warned there needs to be improvement in the diagnosis and treatment of malignant melanoma, especially at primary care level. Employers, too, need to stop thinking of “sun safe” messages as just something you only need to be communicating over the summer.


Employee health and safety – sun safety needs to be year-round, not just for the summer

Slip, slop, slap”-style sun protection campaigns are often thought of as health promotion campaigns you pencil in for the summer months, and understandably so.

It’s fair to say these are useful campaigns to be highlighting if you have a workforce that is working outside or even just to prevent employees from getting dangerously sunburnt when lying in the park in the blazing sunshine during their lunch hour.

But the government’s healthcare watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has warned there needs to be improvement in the diagnosis and treatment of malignant melanoma, especially at primary care level.

Just half of skin cancers are being diagnosed after an urgent referral by GPs, it said. As a result, NICE published a new quality standard that sets out the key areas where skin cancer services need to improve, including the recommendation that GPs should refer people with suspected malignant melanoma for an appointment within two weeks.


Outdoors working and global travel

All useful stuff, of course, at a healthcare professional level. But NICE’s recommendation, while specifically aimed at the healthcare arena, does highlight an important point for employers: sun safety needs to be a year-round thing, not just something you prioritise over the summer months.

This autumn, for example, has (so far) been exceptionally dry and sunny in many parts of the UK.

Then there’s the fact that, in an increasingly globalised working world, employees travel for work, often to hot countries, all year round.

To that end, guidance such as the Health and Safety Executive’s Skin at Work resources or the NHS’s Health Risks from the Sun web information, even if aimed at travellers and holidaymakers generally rather than business travellers specifically, are both useful.

As NICE has highlighted, the fact is that over the last decade rates of malignant melanoma – the most dangerous and aggressive form of skin cancer – have increased by almost 50% in the UK. In England in 2013 there were 12,246 new cases and in 2014 2,080 people died from malignant melanoma.

When you combine this with NICE’s concerns about diagnosis and treatment at primary care level, it’s not hard to see why it’s important to make sun-safe messages a year-round health promotion topic, especially for any employees who travel abroad regularly.

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Posted in Occupational health by OH Assist on the 4th December 2016

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