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June 23, 2009

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Be sensible in the sun

The TUC has published new guidance for employers and unions on how to protect the hundreds of thousands of people who work outdoors when the sun is shining from the risks of UV radiation.Skin Cancer and Outdoor Workers says it is simply not good enough for employers to say they have no control over the weather, or leave it up to individual workers to protect themselves from getting sunburnt. Employers have a legal duty to protect the health of their employees and there is much they can do – from changing working patterns to providing sun canopies, lightweight protective clothing, and sunscreen.According to the TUC, every year there are around 100,000 new cases of skin cancer, with 8000 of these in the form of malignant melanoma, the most serious and fastest-growing form. The number of men with malignant melanoma has increased five-fold in the last 25 years, and the number of women diagnosed has gone up three-fold in the same period.TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “This is not a case of workers getting a little hot under the collar. Skin cancer is the fastest-growing kind of cancer in the UK and is killing more and more people every year.“While most of us are now wise to the need to cover up and splash on the sun lotion on holiday, employers tend not to give their sun-exposed employees much of a thought. This may be because unlike injuries caused by a fall at work, the damaging effect of the sun is not obvious until many years after the damage is done.”The “simple precautions” the guide says employers can take to protect their outdoor workers include:•    Changing working practices so that less outside work needs to be done, either in the hottest months or during the middle of the day, when the sun’s rays are at their strongest;
•    Providing canopies, sheeting, or similar covering over open areas where people are working, and making sure there are shaded areas for staff breaks;
•    Providing information and guidance for staff on how they can avoid exposure to harmful UV radiation; and
•    Providing sunscreen dispensers and encouraging individuals to apply it regularly on exposed skin.For a previous SHP feature article on the effects of the sun and how to protect workers, click here and for a Q&A on the subject from our ‘Just Ask’ section, click here.
 

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