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Middlesex-London Health Unit

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Workplace Health – Sun and UV Safety

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Canada with the incidence of new cases diagnosed continues to rise. Exposure to ultraviolet(UV)radiation from the sun has long been associated with premature skin aging, eye damage including cataracts and skin cancer (Ontario Ministry of Labour, 2009).

Facts

  • Construction workers, landscapers, lifeguards, summer camp workers and others who work outdoors and who are exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun are at an increased risk for skin cancer, sunburn and eye damage (Ontario Ministry of Labour, 2009).
  • Those who have had severe and/or frequent sunburns, and who have less tolerance for sun exposure (those who have fair or freckled skin, blue eyes, and light-colored or reddish hair) are at greater risk for developing skin cancer (Canadian Cancer Society, 2009).

Taking the step forward...

Avoiding unnecessary exposure or over-exposure to UV all year round is the best way to protect employees (Health Canada, 2010). All workplaces are legally required to provide a safe workplace for their employees; sun safety initiatives can help to fulfill that mandate.

Education and Skill-Building

  • Provide sun and UV safety information in a number of different ways such as payroll inserts, displays, or email messages. Consider organizing employee in-service sessions inviting local skin cancer prevention experts
  • Advise employees of the sun’s harmful effects, factors affecting levels of UV, methods for early detection of skin cancer, and protective strategies (i.e. correct use of protective clothing, sunscreen products, etc.)
  • Provide the opportunity for employees to complete a skin cancer risk self-assessment
  • Ensure staff are aware of sun protection measures that are in place in their workplace

Environment Canada's UV Index (Environment Canada, 2013)

UV Index

Description

Sun Protection Actions

0 - 2

Low

  • Minimal sun protection required for normal activity
  • Wear sunglasses on bright days.  If outside for more than one hour, cover up and use sunscreen
  • Reflections off snow can nearly double UV strength.  Wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen

3 - 5

Moderate

  • Take precautions – cover up, wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen - especially if you will be outside for 30 minutes or more
  • Look for shade near midday when the sun is strongest

6 – 7

High

  • Protection required – UV damages the skin and can cause sunburn
  • Reduce time in the sun between 11a.m. and 4p.m. and take full precautions – seek shade, cover up, wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen

8 - 10

Very High

  • Extra precautions required – unprotected skin will be damaged and can burn quickly
  • Avoid the sun between 11a.m. and 4p.m. and take full precautions – seek shade, cover up, wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen

11 +

Extreme

  • Values of 11 or more are very rare in Canada. However, the UV Index can reach 14 or more in the tropics and southern U.S.
  • Take full precautions.  Unprotected skin will be damaged and can burn in minutes. Avoid the sun between 11a.m. and 4p.m., cover up, wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • White sand and other bright surfaces reflect UV and increase UV exposure

Environmental Support

  • Identify jobs within your workplace that expose employees to solar UV rays for prolonged periods
  • Post the daily UV index
  • Provide sunscreen products and/or sunglasses free of charge or at reduced cost

Consider conducting a shade audit to assess the working environment to identify where additional shade is needed

  • Provide constructed (canopies, umbrellas, gazebos, awnings) and natural shade (trees and bushes) structures to provide protection from the sun during work and/or during breaks
  • Request that outdoor workers apply a sunscreen product with a minimum SPF 30 to their exposed skin all year round

Policy Considerations

  • Consider developing an ‘Outdoor Event Policy’ as well as a ‘Policy for Outdoor Workers’
  • Develop policies to address expectations on high UV index days
  • Recommend and/or enforce use of wide brimmed hats, sunscreen products, and eye protection when working outdoors (provided either by the employee or the employer)
  • Adjust work schedules to limit UV exposure between 11:00a.m. and 4:00p.m. or any time the UV Index is 3 or more (Ontario Ministry of Labour, 2009)

Additional Resources

 
Date of creation: December 27, 2013
Last modified on: April 9, 2018

References

2Ontario Ministry of Labour. Ultraviolet Radiation in the Workplace. 2009. Retrieved from
https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/uvradiation/