Gaps in employers’ sun-safe policies are putting outdoor workers at risk of harmful UV radiation exposure, according to new research from AXA PPP healthcare.*
- The healthcare company’s poll of UK outdoor workers found that:
- Over half (56 per cent) are unaware whether their own company has a policy on sun protection. Only one in six (16 per cent) work for companies that provide free sunscreen.
- Just one in seven (14 per cent) use sunscreen when working outdoors.
- But nearly half (44 per cent) say that their employer should be required to provide them and colleagues who work outdoors with sunscreen.
“Companies have a duty of care to safeguard their employees’ health and safety and, as such, they need to regularly review their sun protection policies to ensure they’re fit for purpose,” Dr Iley continued.
“Employers also need to ensure that they educate their workers about the harmful effects of working outdoors without adequate sun protection and the protective measures they should take to minimise the risk. And, whilst outdoor workers may think that the danger from UV radiation has passed now that summer is drawing to a close, employers’ policies should stress that sun safety guidance applies throughout the year. Employers would also be wise to remind their indoor workers – especially those who enjoy lunching in the sunshine – of the risks of over exposure, particularly when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.”
Iley’s warnings are timely in light of Cancer Research UK findings that malignant melanoma incidence rates in Great Britain have been increasing more rapidly than those of any other of the ten most common cancers,*** whilst newly published findings from Public Health England show that hospital admissions for treatment of skin cancer have risen by 41 per cent in the past five years.****
The Health and Safety Executive provides the following sun protection advice for employers of outdoor workers:
- Include sun protection advice in routine health and safety training.
- Inform workers that a tan is not healthy – it is a sign that skin has already been damaged by the sun.
- Encourage workers to keep covered up during the summer months – especially at lunch time when the sun is at its hottest. They can cover up with a long-sleeved shirt and a hat with a brim or flap that protects the ears and neck.
- Encourage workers to use sunscreen of at least Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15. They might prefer to use a spray or an alcohol-based (non-greasy) sunscreen.
- Encourage workers to take their breaks in the shade, where possible, rather than staying out in the sun.
- Consider scheduling work to minimise exposure.
- Site water points and rest areas in the shade.
- Encourage workers to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- Keep your workers informed about the dangers of sun exposure.
- Encourage workers to check their skin regularly for unusual spots or moles that change size, shape or colour and to seek medical advice promptly if they find anything that causes them concern.
“Having the right sun protection policies and procedures benefits employers in a number of ways, including fewer days of absence caused by sunburn, a healthier and better informed workforce and reduced risk to employees of skin cancer due to sun exposure,” Dr Iley observes.
“There are also simple measures employers can take to increase sun awareness within their organisations. Whether this is simply keeping the outdoor workforce updated daily on UV levels or ongoing training or one-on-one advice sessions, clear communication can go a long way in helping employers to safeguard employees’ health. Equally important is provision of suitable sun protection for outdoor workers where appropriate.”
Dr Iley concludes “Whatever the time of the year, workers who spend time outdoors without adequate sun protection are putting themselves at risk. Ultimately, it’s the employer’s responsibility to take reasonable measures to ensure employees are properly protected while at work and, with this in mind, we hope our research findings will be a wakeup call to employers to check their current policies and procedures to ensure that they’re up to scratch.”
*Online survey of 2000 UK adults, 647 of whom spend 50 per cent or more of their working time outdoors, by researcher OnePoll, July 2014.
**Sun protection advice for employers of outdoor workers, Health and Safety Executive:http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg337.pdf
*** Skin cancer incidence statistics, Cancer Research UK:http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/skin/incidence/uk-skin-cancer-incidence-statistics
****Skin cancer hospital admissions soar by 41 per cent in just five years, British Association of Dermatologists:http://www.bad.org.uk/media/news
About AXA PPP healthcare
AXA PPP healthcare has been helping people to access healthcare services since 1940. Today it forms the UK healthcare arm of AXA and provides cover for medical and dental care for individuals and employers, and employee wellbeing, counselling, occupational health and rehabilitation services through its specialist Health Services division.
The AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with 160,000 employees serving 102 million clients in 56 countries. In 2013, IFRS revenues amounted to Euro 91.2 billion and IFRS underlying earnings to Euro 4.7 billion. AXA had Euro 1,113 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2013.
In the UK AXA operates through a number of business units including: AXA Wealth, AXA Commercial Lines and Personal Intermediary, AXA Personal Direct and Partnerships, AXA PPP healthcare, AXA Ireland and an independent distribution business Bluefin. AXA employs over 10,500 staff in the UK.
The AXA ordinary share is listed on compartment A of Euronext Paris under the ticker symbol CS (ISN FR 0000120628 – Bloomberg: CS FP – Reuters: AXAF.PA). AXA’s American Depository Share is also quoted on the OTC QX platform under the ticker symbol AXAHY.
The AXA Group is included in the main international SRI indexes, such as Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and FTSE4GOOD.
It is a founding member of the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Sustainable Insurance and a signatory of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment.