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It’s never too early (or too late!) to reduce your risk of skin cancer. That’s the message from health experts this summer.

With hopefully more of the good weather to come, it is important to ensure the impact it may have on an employee’s health is taken into account if the risks have not been considered or properly managed.

NHS England is urging men who spend a lot of time outdoors to ‘Cover Up, Mate’ and slap on the sun cream when exposed to UV rays.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering, skin ageing and in the long term can lead to skin cancer

For the last 3 years, skin cancer rates have been increasing and are higher than average in the South, particularly in men who work in the agricultural and construction industries, as well as gardeners and sports-players. It is one of the most common forms of cancers, which can be fatal.

The warning comes as new data suggests the danger is not confined to the height of summer, but as early as April and May. It’s also a time of year when our skin would naturally have lost resistance to UV over winter.

Research tells us that skin cancer is growing at a faster rate in men than women. In males in the UK melanoma skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer, with around 8,100 new cases in 2015.

It’s clear, a suntan is not a sign of health, it is a sign of skin damage that does not offer protection from harmful UV rays.

The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one colour. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed. Look out for a mole which changes progressively in shape, size and/or colour.

An “ABCDE moles checklist” has been developed to help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma.

The checklist and other useful information can be found on the NHS Choices website 

You can also visit the NHS site for official advice on staying safe in the sun 

If your or your employee’s regularly work outdoors then this should be considered in your risk assessments and controls put in place to minimise exposure to the sun and heat.

These could include;

  • Sun protection advice during routine health and safety training
  • Encouraging employees to keep covered up during the summer months – especially around mid-day when the sun is at its strongest i.e. with long sleeved shirts and hats that can protect the neck and ears
  • Encouraging employees to use sunscreen of at least SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 15 on any part of the body that is not covered up
  • Encouraging employees to take their breaks in the shade, if possible, rather than staying out in the sun
  • Scheduling work to minimise employees exposure to the sun
  • Providing water to encourage employees to avoid dehydration
  • Keep employees informed about the dangers of exposure to the sun
  • Encouraging employees to check their skin regularly for unusual spots or moles that change size, shape or colour and to seek prompt medical advice if they find anything that causes them concern.

As qualified and experienced health and safety professionals, we can make managing health and safety in your business ‘Hassle Free’, including advice on how to carry out risk assessments taking into account outdoor working.

Whatever your health and safety needs, give us a call today 0117 958 2070 or e-mail us and make your health and safety, ‘Hassle Free’