Protecting Outdoor Workers from UVR Exposure: The Imperative of Proper PPE and Sunscreen Use
By: Richard Rich
The sun might appear as a constant, benevolent presence, but for outdoor workers, particularly those in high-risk professions such as linemen, it poses a unique health risk. Excessive exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR), a harmful component of sunlight, is common in their line of work. In fact, linemen experience three times more UV exposure compared to workers in other professions.
Prolonged and unprotected exposure to solar UVR has been linked to skin malignancies, with non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) and melanoma being the most prevalent. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 60,000 deaths occur annually from various types of skin cancer, and about 90% of these cancers are associated with UV radiation from the sun. The risks are particularly acute for outdoor workers, who can receive up to 10 times the UV exposure of indoor workers.
There’s a growing recognition of the necessity to protect outdoor workers from these threats. In many countries, regulations now require employers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to guard against UVR exposure. Such gear typically includes UV-blocking sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and headgear like broad-brimmed helmets or hats with sun shields, ear, and neck guards. It’s important to note that in countries like Germany, the employer is required to fund such protective measures.
But, what about the parts of the body that are usually left uncovered, such as the face, ears, and back of the hands? This is where the role of sunscreen comes into play. Though not classified as PPE, it is vital in providing added protection to these areas. An effective sunscreen should block both UV-A and UV-B rays (having a broad-spectrum UV filter), possess a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30, and be both water and sweat-resistant. Importantly, it should also be easy to apply so that workers can reapply it frequently during the day, ideally every 2 hours.
Recent studies indicate that the majority of outdoor workers, despite acknowledging the risks, still underuse protective measures like sunscreen. This trend underscores the need for more comprehensive educational programs that emphasize the dangers of UVR exposure and the benefits of preventive behaviors, such as regular use of sunscreen and protective clothing.
The fight against UVR-related skin cancer is not just about individual prevention. It requires an organized, multi-pronged approach that combines technical, organizational, and person-related measures, ranging from shaded work areas to scheduled work during low UV index periods, along with providing appropriate PPE and promoting sunscreen use.
Despite efforts to combat UVR exposure, there remains a significant underreporting of occupational skin cancer. However, with the recent implementation of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases 11th Edition, there is hope for a more accurate portrayal of the scale of this problem, aiding in the formulation of more effective prevention strategies.
In conclusion, providing appropriate UVR protection to outdoor workers is a key responsibility of employers and a matter of critical public health concern. Alongside effective use of PPE, the regular application of sunscreen on exposed areas is vital in mitigating the harmful impacts of UVR exposure, and ultimately, preventing the onset of skin cancer.
About R&R Lotion
As an integral part of public health, providing outdoor workers with appropriate UVR protection is an imperative. Beyond the use of personal protective equipment, consistent application of sunscreen plays a crucial role in countering the detrimental effects of solar UVR exposure, thereby mitigating the risk of skin cancer.
To find out more about our offerings, request samples of our products, or schedule a UVR Education Seminar for your employees or organization, we invite you to reach out to us.
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