According to a survey1 conducted by SC Johnson Professional in 2020, 76% of UK health & safety professionals were unaware of the danger of unprotected UV exposure, stating that they did not know that 1 death and 5 new cases of skin cancer per week in Britain could be attributed to occupational UV exposure2. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK2 and Britain sees 1,700 people diagnosed every year as a direct cause of occupational sun exposure3.
Along with lack of awareness, these professionals did not feel equipped to properly train workers, including in the utilities sector, which has the highest proportion of employees who regularly worked outdoors. Three-quarters of respondents working in this sector felt they did not have enough information to enable them to deliver UV protection training programmes to their employees.
Especially during the summer months, it is key that awareness is raised around the potential dangers of over-exposure to UV radiation, among both employees and health and safety professionals. Building on studies conducted in 2017 and 2019 with outdoor workers, SC Johnson Professional last year surveyed health and safety officials at UK companies, with 114 participating. The four-year research project by the occupational skin care company is intended to understand the gaps in awareness of outdoor workers, discover what employers are doing and the challenges they are facing along with providing recommendations on best practice for employers in providing protective skin creams.
According to Health & Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines, UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for those who work outdoors. Despite this, in their 2019 survey SC Johnson Professional discovered that 87% of non-wearers of sun cream stated that there was no UV protection product made available in their workplace. Of those who did use sun cream however, only 27% were provided with product by their employer. Last year, 136 outdoor workers participated in the survey regarding their UV protection habits during the summer of 2018 (one of the hottest on record). It was found that only 1 in 4 wore protective sun cream whilst at work, citing the effort involved as the main reason they did not use any. In contrast to this, 72% of respondents claimed that they would use protective sun cream whilst on holiday, but only 26% would wear sun cream on cloudy days; demonstrating an awareness of the risks but the need for a shift in attitude when it came to protection at work.
In reviewing the 2020 data, it can be surmised that the larger the number of outdoor workers in a business, the larger the number of health & safety professionals who believe that the workforce is increasingly unaware of the dangers posed by UV radiation from the sun. This again suggests that much more still needs to be done across organisations to raise awareness of this issue.
Training emerged as a key finding from the 2020 survey. Of those health & safety professionals with a majority of employees working outdoors, 1 in 3 said that they did not have enough information to brief workers on the dangers of UV exposure and 41% stated that they wanted clearer regulatory requirements to help them with this. 43% of professionals wanted better data and information on the risks posed by UV radiation in the UK.
Taking these insights on board, SC Johnson Professional have developed a suite of easy-to-use training resources, specifically designed for employees who work outdoors and for health & safety professionals to implement as part of a skin care training programme. The Deb Skin Care sun protection range has also been designed specifically for professional use; available in systemised and personal-use formats, promoting the importance of sun safety.
3. https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/177007/sun-exposure-work-could-lead-skin/, 2017