Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!


Episode #121:  Sun Safety at Work with Thomas Tenkate



Introduction Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, broadcasting from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.


Host:  Welcome to this episode of Health and Safety to Go. Our guest today is Dr. Thomas Tenkate, Associate Professor and Director at the School of Occupational and Public Health at Ryerson University in Toronto. Dr. Tenkate has worked in Australia, the USA and now Canada in the fields of public health and occupational health and safety for over 20 years. He is interested in occupational exposure and risk management for ultraviolet radiation, and is the project lead for the Sun Safety at Work Canada project. 


Sun Safety at Work Canada is a national project funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer that aims to help outdoor workplaces enhance sun safety by developing a sun safety program that will address both skin cancer and heat stress prevention.

Thank you for joining us today Dr. Tenkate.  Why is sun safety important?

Dr. Tenkate:  Thanks very much.  Sun exposure is a workplace hazard that can cause a range of skin and eye conditions along with heat stress. There is a large number of outdoor workers in Canada, between 1.5 and 5.4 million workers, depending on whose numbers you use. They receive high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, and they are often not well protected. Workplaces do report that implementing effective sun safety measures is quite a challenge. Even though workplaces often think that sun exposure is only an issue in summer, UV levels are high enough in Canada to require protection for a lot of the year, and particularly from April through to October, while eye protection is particularly required in winter due to reflected UV and glare off the snow.

Host:  What are the risks that come with working outdoors?


Dr. Tenkate:  Outdoor workers are at a higher risk for skin cancer and heat stress and they also report frequent sunburns, which apart from being painful and uncomfortable, are also a risk factor for skin cancer.  Most people don’t realize that skin cancer is the leading cancer throughout the world, with 1 in 3 cancers being a skin cancer.


In Canada each year, there are over 80,000 new cases of skin cancer each year and over 1500 deaths. As many as 7,000 cases of skin cancer each year are a direct result of occupational exposure. In a survey we’ve conducted, a relatively high proportion of workers also reported having 6 or more sunburns at work each summer and also reported experiencing heat stress. Heat stress occurs when your body loses its ability to self-regulate body temperature. This can lead to a range of serious medical conditions including heat stroke which people can die from. Despite having time off work, very few of these incidents also seem to be reported.

Host:   How can workers protect themselves?

Dr. Tenkate:  With proper control/protection measures in place, the risk of skin cancer and heat stress to workers can be significantly decreased as these conditions are largely preventable. We recommend that workplaces treat sun exposure like any other hazard and address it through a sun safety program. Sun safety program is a ‘hazard specific’ program within an occupational health and safety management system or an occupational health and safety program. It includes having a sun safety policy, undertaking risk assessments for solar UV exposure and for heat stress, and putting in place control measures.

We have developed a range of simple steps that workers can use to protect themselves and there are six simple steps for workers to protect their skin and eyes from the sun:

Host:  Do you have any tips on how workers can protect themselves from heat stress?


Dr. Tenkate:  Yes, we have six simple steps for workers to protect themselves from heat stress, these are:


Host:  As the project lead of the Sun Safety at Work Canada project, can you tell us a bit about it?

Dr. Tenkate:   Yes, the project’s aim is to develop a range of evidence-based resources to help workplaces implement effective sun safety practices and to raise the importance of sun safety as an important issue for occupational health and safety.


Currently, we are working with 16 workplaces in three provinces to help them implement more effective sun safety measures and through this they are also helping us develop a range of resources.


We are also developing a comprehensive website - sunsafetyatwork.ca, that will launch in late summer 2016 and will serve as a one-stop-shop for workplaces and employees to come to when they are looking for information and resources on workplace sun safety.


In the meantime, we have a temporary project page at the Occupational Cancer Research Centre website and this provides access to some of the initially developed resources.


Host:  Thank you very much Dr. Tenkate. For more information on sun safety and the Sun Safety at Work Canada project, you can visit www.occupationalcancer.ca.


Thanks for listening everyone.