Outdoor workers exposed to sun at high risk for skin cancer
What do sailors, surveyors, landscapers and postal carriers have in common? They all work outdoors and are regularly exposed to the sun for long periods of time. This puts them at a high risk for developing skin cancer, according to the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA). Adding to the danger for outdoor workers is the fact that they are often in the sun when the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation is at its strongest, between 12 noon and 2 pm.
Who Is At Risk?
Anyone working outdoors who may be exposed to the sun's ultraviolet radiation is at risk, including:
- agricultural workers
- construction workers
- pipeline workers
- ski instructors
- brick masons
- oilfield workers
- postal carriers
- open-pit miners
How To Reduce The Risk Of Skin Cancer From Sunlight
It is important to be aware of the risks and take precautions while under the sun from as early in life as possible. The good news is that skin cancer is largely preventable. You can protect yourself in these ways:
Reduce exposure to sunlight. Try to limit the amount of time you work outdoors in the sun, especially from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm when the sun's rays are the most intense. Seek shade from buildings, trees, canopies, etc, as much as possible, especially during lunch and coffee breaks. Be aware that water, white sand or concrete, snow, and ice can reflect from around 10 percent to 85 percent of the sun's ultraviolet radiation. Your skin may require extra protection against these indirect, reflected rays.
Wear protective clothing and sunglasses. Wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible, made from fabrics which do not let light through. Not all clothing offers the same protection. For example, a white cotton T-shirt may have an SPF of 7 while a long-sleeved denim shirt has an estimated SPF of 1700. Some fabrics like cotton lose about 50% of their SPF rating when they get wet. For additional protection, wear wrap-around sunglasses that absorb UVA and UVB radiation, and a wide-brimmed hat (more than 8 cm or 3 inches). If you wear a construction helmet, attach a back flap to cover the back of your neck and a visor for the front of the face.
Use protective sunscreens. You should generously apply a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to all areas of exposed skin, 20 minutes before working in the sun. Reapply it as directed by the manufacturer's instructions (usually every two hours) or more often if you are perspiring heavily. Remember your lips and apply a broad spectrum, SPF 30 lip balm.
Sunscreens should be used in addition to, not instead of, working in shade and wearing suitable clothing, hats, and sunglasses. Sunscreens are not intended to extend the exposure time to sunlight, but rather to reduce the effects of sunlight when you have to be in the sun.
Examine your skin regularly for any unusual changes. The danger signs include any wound, sore, or patch of skin that won't heal or constantly scales. Also examine for any growing lump, particularly if brown or bluish in colour. Get medical care for anything that looks suspicious rather than wait until the problem becomes untreatable.
More about skin cancer and sunlight, CCOHS
Outdoor Workers Program, Canadian Dermatology Association
In the News
If you are responsible for doing WHMIS classifications and writing WHMIS-compliant material safety data sheets (MSDSs), you will want to pay particular attention to recent changes made to the Controlled Products Regulations (CPR), which establish the rules for the Canadian Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). Under the Hazardous Products Act (HPA), the CPR amendment SOR/2010-38, published and coming into force February 23, 2010, addresses some issues related to hazard classification and the information provided on MSDSs.
Highlights include the following:
- Previously, the supplier was required to include on the MSDS specific information required by the regulation plus "any other hazard information with respect to the controlled product of which the supplier is aware or ought reasonably to be aware." [CPR subsection 12(11)] A regulatory review concluded that the HPA does not provide the authority for the CPR to say "aware or ought to be reasonably aware". The amended rules now requires the disclosure on the MSDS of "all additional hazard information that is available to the supplier with respect to the controlled product or, if appropriate, a product, material or substance that has similar properties, including any evidence based on established scientific principles."
Amended subsection 33(2) now lists the type of additional scientific evidence the supplier may use to determine if a product, material or substance does or does not meets the criteria for Class D - Poisonous and Infectious Material as follows:
- results of other testing for the product, material or substance;
- if appropriate, results of other testing of a product, material or substance that has similar properties; or
- other evidence based on studies, epidemiological data for the product, material or substance or, if appropriate, a product, material or substance that has similar properties.
- With respect to the rules regarding hazard classification, the statement "evaluation and scientific judgment based on test results" [subsection 33(1)] was determined to be too subjective. Suppliers must now use "evidence based on established scientific principles " on which to base their classification decisions.
- Previously an infectious substance (Division 3 of Class D) was defined as "an organism that has been shown to cause disease in persons or animals or is reasonably believed to cause disease in persons or animals". The definition has been changed to "an organism that has been shown to cause disease or to be a probable cause of disease in persons or animals". [section 64]
The changes to the CPR are intended to clarify the Regulations under the legislative authority provided by the HPA and to ensure consistency between the English and French versions of the Regulations.
Read the full text of the amendment in The Gazette.
WHMIS National Site
Search free WHMIS classifications, CCOHS
WHMIS Classification of chemical substances, CSST
North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week runs May 2-8. It's your chance to put health and safety in the spotlight at your workplace. Need ideas? We have a few
With How Safe Are You? as the theme, CCOHS is offering a selection of free webinars and podcasts on workplace violence, the impact of injuries, and how Twitter can be used to promote health and safety. The programs were developed for workplaces to use during NAOSH Week to raise awareness and ultimately improve the health, safety and well-being of workers.
Ontario Bill 168 - Violence & Harassment in the Workplace
Jessie Callaghan, Senior Technical Specialist, at CCOHS explores the ideas, implications and applications regarding this Ontario Bill and how workplace policies and procedures will be affected. This webinar runs for 25 minutes and is available on demand.
Short but Tweet: Ten Twitter Tips for Health and Safety
Tuesday, May 4, 2010 1:00 pm EST
Krista Travers, Marketing Communications Officer at CCOHS, gives a free, 30-minute webinar to give Canadians a better understanding of Twitter's potential and how it can be used to enrich and promote health and safety in the workplace. This is a live event that requires pre-registration.
Violence and Harassment in the Workplace
Jessie Callaghan, Senior Technical Specialist, at CCOHS discusses workplace violence and harassment - how to protect your employees, tips for prevention and the new requirements under Ontario Bill 168.
Listen to the podcast on demand. Length: 7:13 minutes
Workplace Injuries: A Personal Story
Bill Bowman, a victim of a workplace injury shares his personal story and how he and his family were impacted by the tragedy. Bill also describes the work of Threads of Life, an organization that provides support to families affected by workplace tragedies.
Listen to the podcast on demand. Length: 9:24 minutes
About NAOSH Week
NAOSH Week strives to focus the attention of employers, employees, the general public, and all workplace safety and health partners on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home and in the community.
NAOSH Week is led by the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), and Labour Program, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). NAOSH Week continues to be a truly continent-wide event, celebrated in Canada, along with North American partners in the United States and Mexico.
For more ideas and information about NAOSH Week, visit the website: www.naosh.org/.
In 2008, 1,036 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada - more than 2 deaths every single day. Another 942,478 workers were injured or became ill.
April 28th is National Day of Mourning. On this day the Canadian flag on Parliament Hill and at CCOHS will fly at half-mast. Workers will light candles, don ribbons and black armbands and observe moments of silence to remember those lives lost or injured in the workplace.
CCOHS hopes that the annual observance of this day will strengthen the resolve to establish safe conditions in the workplace for all. And as much as the Day of Mourning is a day to remember the dead, it is a call to protect the living.
More about the Day of Mourning
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2016, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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