Summer is here, and while most people in Pennsylvania likely cannot wait to get out and enjoy the sun, those whose occupations have them working all day outdoors might not realize the danger posed by the UV rays of the sun. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration started warning employers about the dangers of heat illnesses during spring, and urged them to provide fresh water and shady rest areas for outdoor workers. However, safety authorities make little mention of the risks of skin cancer.
If you work as a landscaper, construction worker, postal worker or any other occupation that exposes you to the sun, you may be at risk of developing skin cancer. Even truckers or other employees whose jobs require them to spend many hours driving might not realize that their exposure to the sun also puts them at risk. While auto manufacturers typically install laminated windscreens to block hazardous rays, the side windows usually provide little protection against UV radiation.
Sun safety measures
Even if your employer does not implement a sun protection program, you can take steps to protect yourself from sun-related injuries as well as the costs and suffering that come along with skin cancer. The following precautions might keep you safe:
- Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30, and ensure you cover all exposed skin, and reapply at two or three-hour intervals. An SPF 30 sunscreen will not only protect you from harmful natural UV rays but also from artificial rays produced during some industrial processes like welding.
- Protective clothing: An effective way to protect your skin from UV radiation is covering as much as possible of it with light, loose clothing. Although fabrics with SPF ratings are available, any clothing will provide protection — the closer the weave the better.
- Choose quality sunglasses: Make sure your sunglasses block as close to 100 percent of all UV rays as possible because, along with the skin around your eyes and the eyelids, the sun can damage other parts of your eye such as the corneas and lenses.
- Head protection: Wearing a wide-brim hat can protect your scalp and ears, which are difficult areas to protect with sunscreen lotion. Choosing a hat made from protective SPF materials can also provide additional protection for your face and the back of your neck.
- Seek shade: Do as much of your work as possible in the shade — especially during the hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., which is when UV rays are most damaging. You could try to arrange your work schedule to start earlier in the morning so that you can do most of your outdoor work before midday while aiming to do other tasks in the shade or indoors during those dangerous hours.
Prevention is better than cure
Even though skin cancer is preventable, estimations by the American Academy of Dermatology indicate that over 8,500 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed nationwide each day. If you are unfortunate enough to contract skin cancer as a result of your occupation, you should be entitled to financial assistance, but you might have trouble proving that your workplace conditions caused it.
Fortunately, experienced legal counsel can help you with the navigation of the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claims process, and can be your advocate during the appeals process if the insurer rejects your claim.