Sun safety

More than a third of Britons admit to having been sunburnt in the past year while in the UK (let alone while on holiday), highlighting the value of making “sun safety” a key part of your summer health promotion communication.

Employee health and safety – sun safety messages are important for all employees, not just outside workers

Wimbledon fortnight is here, so chances are the heavens will now open and the rain will come sheeting down. But, given that we’ve already had some of the hottest weather this summer for 40 years, now is a good time to be revisiting your “sun safe” health promotion communications.

Sun safety is, of course, a vitally important message to be getting across to any employees who are working predominantly outside during the summer months.

Recent research from the Canadian Occupational Cancer Research Centre by the Canadian Dermatology Association, for example, has highlighted that some 7,000 skin cancers were attributed to occupational exposure in 2014, and outdoor workers have a 2.5 to 3.5 times greater risk of skin cancer than indoor workers.

The Health and Safety Executive also highlights that skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, with sun exposure a key cause – and has this useful guidance.

It is also worth being aware of resources such as this from the TUC, and this from Cancer Research UK.

Sunburnt three times or more
But it is also important to communicate the importance of protecting yourself from the sun’s rays to your office-based or inside-based employees.

After all, hurling yourself down in the park for an hour at lunchtime in the blazing sun can still result in serious sunburn. And, of course, at this time of year even a sunny yet hazy day can still be burning.

In fact, a poll by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) has suggested that more a third (35%) of Britons admit to having been sunburnt in the past year while in the UK, let alone while on holiday. Of those, a worrying 28% said they had been sunburnt three or more times

The poll was published by the BAD to mark its Sun Awareness Week in May but is, if anything, even more valid at this time of year.

Even more worrying was the BAD finding that a full 88% of those polled said they were aware of sun awareness messages, and yet still managed to get sunburnt.

Those who have suffered sunburn were asked by the BAD what factors they felt had contributed to this.

Top of the list was not realising how strong the sun was (61%), failing to reapply sunscreen after long periods (43%), and not reapplying sunscreen after sweating or swimming (30%).

Cultural reasons also played their part, including “the desire for a tan” (19%), alcohol consumption (8%), and “falling asleep in the sun” (13%).

Dr Nick Levell, president of the association, said: “Too many people are ready to laugh off sunburn as the inevitable price of enjoying the summer, but it shouldn’t be. It’s possible to enjoy the sun, and summer, without suffering sun damage; it just takes a bit of care.”

What, then, should be the message here for employers?

Tackle sun-safety myths
It’s pretty simple, really. Get out there and communicate sun-safe messages to all your employees, including tackling common sun-safety myths; make it a core part of your health promotion activity during the summer months, and keep on reminding people.

On top of this, of course, there is a debate to be had about heat in the workplace during the summer months, especially if this summer does turn out to be a full-blown 1976-style scorcher.

Certainly, the high temperatures we experienced during June led to number of calls for employers to relax uniform rules and the need for a maximum working temperature to be legislated for, as well as a minimum.

This blog isn’t the place to be having that specific debate, but the temperature of your workplace and its impact on productivity and performance is certainly a discussion to be having.

Dress codes and hot workplaces
All workplaces will, naturally, have different dress codes and expectations of how their employees should look at work.

While many workplaces are becoming more relaxed about this, not least the Houses of Parliament, it does have to be recognised that, for many employers, their workplace dress code is an important part of their brand and image.

Within those parameters, however, it is important to consider whether temporary relaxation of formal dress codes is simply common-sense during extremely hot weather and whether basic measures – such as providing fans if there is no air conditioning – might also be a good idea.

After all, as an employer, ultimately what you want is for your employees to be performing and productive to be the best of their ability.

If they’re feeling uncomfortable and distracted, it stands to reason performance is likely to suffer. Whatever the weather.

If nothing else read this
• More than a third (35%) of Britons admit to having been sunburnt in the past year while in the UK, let alone while on holidays
• Sun-safe messages are important for all employees, not just those working outside
• Also consider how to protect productivity and performance during hot weather, perhaps by temporarily relaxing dress codes

Posted in News,Occupational health by OH Assist on the 14th July 2017

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