No matter how often health agencies drum away at the message of wearing sunscreen and hats, the message often seems to fall on deaf, sunburned ears. People mistakenly continue to associate a suntan with good health and vitality. That’s their business, right?
Not strictly. If you are allowing your workers to work shirtless and hatless, you could be inviting trouble from OSHA. These items of clothing are considered personal protective equipment (PPE) under rule 29 CFR 1920.132a.
OSHA also considers a sunburn (second degree burn) a recordable injury.
If an OSHA inspector shows up and sees several people working with no protection against the sun, your company or organization could be cited.
Many companies are now providing free sunscreen to their outdoor workers. Does yours?
If your company employs drivers, you also might want to consider a Saint Louis University School of Medicine study of 898 skin cancer patients. It found that people who spend considerable time behind the wheel are more likely to develop skin cancer on the left-hand side of their bodies, involving the neck, head, arms and hands. The tumors they developed are linked to cumulative sun exposure over many years, rather than short-term exposures that cause sunburns.
And the risk doesn’t simply involve people who drive with their driver’s side windows lowered. The study, led by dermatology professor Dr. Scott Fosko, found that while raised vehicle side windows block UVB rays that cause sunburn, they do not stop UVA rays, which are more penetrating. Windshields are made of laminated glass that is effective at filtering both UVA and UVB rays.
Fosko says people who do a lot of driving need to apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, and wear protective clothing, including a hat. Pass this information on to your drivers.