It may only be the start of summer, but the UK has already seen some long bouts of sunshine this year. With further (and hotter) sunny days ahead, skincare expert SC Johnson Professional is warning arborists to take the dangers of occupational UV exposure seriously.

DID you know that, according to IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health), one death and five new cases of skin cancer per week in Britain can be attributed to occupational UV exposure? A recent survey by SC Johnson Professional revealed 76 per cent of the UK’s health and safety professionals were unaware.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world and Britain sees 1,700 people diagnosed every year as a direct result of occupational sun exposure. It is key that more awareness is raised around the potential dangers of over-exposure to UV radiation. Building on previous studies, this year SC Johnson Professional surveyed 114 health and safety officials at UK companies.

Among the key findings, one in three health and safety professionals stated their organisation did not provide any UV protection to outdoor workers. Despite still leaving a third of the workforce vulnerable, outdoor workers themselves painted a starker picture: two in three said their organisation did not provide UV protection to them in the 2019 survey.

Lack of provision may be due to the fact that 40 per cent of these professionals claimed employees provided their own UV protection. This result was despite the Health and Safety at Work Act, which states that every employer has a legal duty to safeguard – as far as is reasonably practical – the health of their employees. According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines, UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for those who work outdoors.

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Further to this, when asked why they felt a large number of employees did not use UV protection, 45 per cent of health and safety professionals admitted this was due to a lack of awareness around the dangers of UV exposure. However, it was concerning that 30 per cent of respondents said it was due to a general belief that UV protection at work in the UK is unnecessary. Last year, in a survey of 136 outdoor workers, it was found that only one in four wore protective sun cream whilst at work, citing the effort involved as the main reason they did not use any.

Seeking to discover what was needed in terms of training, it was found that health and safety professionals recognised employees’ gap in knowledge yet felt unequipped to address it. One in two organisations surveyed carried out no training on when and how to use UV protection, and just 37 per cent of them stated they themselves felt they had had the correct training to equip them to implement UV protection programmes in their organisations.

The availability of training information emerged as a key finding. Of those health and safety professionals with a majority of employees working outdoors, one in three said that they did not have enough information to brief workers on the dangers of UV exposure and 41 per cent stated they wanted clearer regulatory requirements to help them with this. 43 per cent of professionals wanted better data and information on the risks posed by UV radiation in the UK.

Quality training is one way to raise awareness of the risks and advise on best practice at work. Toolbox talks help health and safety professionals to deliver quality, informative training, and videos can illustrate real-life case studies and simple facts to bring home the reality of over-exposure. The ‘Five S approach’ should be highlighted – slip, slop, slap, slide and shade – an approach which can significantly contribute to the prevention of excessive UV exposure.

Alan Murray, CEO at the British Safety Industry Federation, said: “The research carried out by SC Johnson Professional clearly shows that more awareness and training is needed when it comes to UV protection at work here in the UK – both for health and safety professionals and people that work outside. Employers have a duty of care to provide UV protection to their workforce, and the best way to ensure this is implemented is via health and safety professionals.”

Find out more about SC Johnson Professional’s products or download training material here.

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