May is Skin Cancer Awareness month and Skin Cancer is an important topic that needs to be talked about more. But why are WE talking about it and what does it have to do with Human Resources? It has a lot to do with Human Resources because it significantly affects employers who, primarily, are in industries in which the employees spend their time outdoors performing their job duties. But still, nobody talks about how the harmful effects of the sun can have a long-term impact on these employees. Let’s talk about “sun safe” work environments, and then let’s do something it.
The statistics show that 1 in 10 people will be diagnosed with Skin Cancer due to prolonged exposure to harmful UV rays. This exposure can be from extended periods of time in the sun without the proper protection, which is a significant risk for employees in industries such as construction, outdoor sports, lawn maintenance and management, and any other industries in which employees are performing their duties outdoors. Employers in these industries have an obligation to provide their employees with a safe and healthy work environment. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) General Duty Clause states:
Employers are required to provide their employees with “a place of employment that is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” Under this Clause, sun and heat related illnesses are recognized hazards.
Organizations in violation of this clause would be cited by OSHA for not addressing sun and heat related issues. It’s pretty straight forward — companies are responsible for what they expose their employees to. Providing protection from the dangers of prolonged sun exposure is no different than a company’s obligation to provide protection from harmful chemicals, smoke, or fire. So there is no reason for businesses not to be compliant.
The good news is that Skin Cancer is preventable with a few simple measures of broad spectrum sunscreen, providing shade, and protecting the skin with clothes and hats. There are a variety of hats, headwraps and clothing that are UV protectant to help in the fight against skin cancer.
Talk about being sun safe in your next safety meeting, talk about it in your next team meeting, talk about it in your next daily huddle.
We talked about, now here’s what you do about it.
Daniel Deller with Progressive Safety Management in Charlotte, NC says the best thing to do is develop and a Safety Plan that addresses Sun Safety & Heat Stress Prevention. Once the plan is developed, implement the plan through training and ongoing reinforcement. Safety must be an absolute priority at any company and that includes protection from sun exposure and heat related illnesses.
Even if you don’t have a plan for this yet, there are simple and inexpensive steps that can be taken to protect employees, be compliant, and create a sun safe work environment:
- Educate employees on how they can protect themselves from sun exposure and related illnesses
- Provide sunscreen at all job sites, in all company vehicles or wherever employees will be able to easily access it
- Provide shaded spots for employees to be able to take breaks and get out of the sun
- Encourage the use of proper clothes to protect their skin, or as an added benefit, provide each employee with a UV protectant clothing item, hat or headwear
As the heat of the summer is upon us (and evident most of the year in our region), it is important to put the safety of your employees, and their future health, as a priority. If you don’t have a Safety Plan in place, we can provide the guidance and compliance information you need to get started. Contact us to schedule a consultation.