We all look forward to spending a little time in the sun during the summer, but if you aren't careful, it could lead to some serious issues down the road. While short term conditions such as sunburns, sun stroke and general overheating may present some temporary discomfort, too much exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays can also lead to skin cancer, snow blindness (or welder's flash) and cataracts .
July is UV awareness month around the world, and we thought we'd bring you a campaign from a country known for it's sunshine and outdoorsy lifestyle: Australia!
The UV. It all adds up. campaign is presented by Sun Smart, a program jointly funded by Cancer Council Victoria and Victorian Health Promotion since 1988. It has since expanded to become the world leader in skin cancer prevention, as well as a designated World Health Organization Collaborative Centre for Ultraviolet Radiation.
Their mission is simple:
To reduce skin cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality through a targeted prevention and early detection program.
The campaign focuses on the fact that UV damage is permanent and simply keeps accumulating. While individual aspects of sun damage may fade away, long term effects will eventually become visible. SunSmart describes it much better:
Your skin is like a memory bank – it remembers all the sunburns, all the tans and all the time you spent exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, without sun protection.
Over time, this UV damage can result in premature ageing, eye damage, sunspots, and ultimately, skin cancer.
Managing Sun Exposure at Work
Outdoor workers, such as construction workers, postal workers and farmers (among many others) have an increased risk of sin damage and skin cancer because of their extended exposure to UV rays.
- Dress for success. Sun protective clothing is one of the most effective methods of sun protection on the market. Look for tags that carry a higher UPF rating (between UPF 30+ and 50+) and have been designed specifically for outdoor work. They are lighter weight but still provide maximum protection for workers.
- Don't be hot headed. Always wear a hat when working outside. Specially designed sun protection hat will cover the head, face, neck and ears, and are created from the same fabrics as sun protective clothing.
- Don't forget the sunscreen. Everyone should wear sunscreen anytime they are outside, however outdoor workers should be especially conscientious of sunscreen rules. Ensure that they are using the appropriate level of SPF, that the sunscreen is waterproof and that they are aware of how often it needs to be reapplied in their work conditions.
- Be cool in your shades. While your designer sunglasses may be a great conversation starter at the company BBQ, they may not offer the required UV protection you need during the work day. For the best protection, look for a pair of wrap around sunglasses with a high UV rating that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
- The early bird gets to chill. If possible, try to get the most labour intensive tasks done earlier in the day, when it's cooler. Once the sun is higher in the sky and temperatures soar, workers can perform lighter work or execute tasks in shaded areas of the work site.
- Break it up. When working through the hottest part of the day, make sure workers have a cool place out of the sun where they can take frequent breaks, such as an air conditioned vehicle or trailer, or a shaded or covered area of the work site.
Listen to Your Skin
Skin cancer can developed very quickly but is highly curable if detected early enough. While some employer's provide regular skin checks to high risk workers, workers themselves are in the best position to notice changes to their own skin.
Since most people are aware of what is normal for their bodies, workers are likely to be the first to notice when something isn't quite right. By providing them with the proper knowledge and training on how to identify suspicious spots, the odds of early detection increase significantly.
Some of the skin check tips from SunSmart include:
- Checking your whole body including the soles of your feet, between your toes, your armpits, ears, eyelids, under your fingernails and your scalp.
- Using a hand held mirror or having someone help you to check areas you cannot see such as your back, back of your neck and legs.
- Looking for new spots or spots that are different from the ones around it.
- Looking for sores that don’t heal.
- Looking for spots or moles that have changed in size, shape or color.
Workers should be encouraged to report any changes or concerns to their doctor immediately. Better safe than sorry, right?
For more summer sun tips and information follow #uvitalladdsup on our twitter feed every Monday for the month of July. Have a wonderful and SunSmart summer!