In Cleveland, my hometown, the cold weather and winter seem to be perpetual. So, when the sun finally begins to peek it’s head through the gray sky, I take advantage of it.
You can catch me outside, whether I’m hiking at Cuyahoga Valley National Park or running in my neighborhood. There’s nothing better than being out in the sunshine, but I admit I am terrible with wearing sunscreen.
May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. Outdoor workers, particularly those in construction, agriculture and landscaping, are exposed to the sun’s rays for hours on end, and they need to take extra precaution, whether it is sunscreen or the personal protective equipment.
I personally didn’t realize the proliferation of skin cancer until I spoke to a spray tan technician about five or six years ago, something that has remained with me to this day. She told me about how many adolescent clients came in with scars, simply because they wanted that sun-kissed glow.
The U.S. Office of the Surgeon General called skin cancer a “major health problem” in 2014, calling for a need for action. Even though the agency has taken steps to curb intentional tanning and educate about the dangers inadequate sun protection, cancer rates continue to increase.
Five million people are treated each year for skin cancer at an annual cost of $8.1 billion, according to the report.
The Skin Cancer Foundation lists the following items and details for outdoor worker protection:
Clothing - Wear sun protective clothing and cover your skin. Long-sleeved, closely-woven shirts and long trousers or skirts provide the best protection. Avoid clothes that you can see light through. If light is getting through, the ultraviolet radiation is getting through as well. If shorts are worn, a pair that approaches the knee will offer more protection than a shorter pair. A collar will protect the skin on the back of the neck.
A hat will help keep the sun off the face, neck and ears, and protect bald spots. Broad-brimmed hats are best, but the brim should be at least 3 inches wide. If a lot of bending is required, have a flap on the back of the hat, which will keep the sun off the back of the neck. Hardhats can have a flap or extra brim fitted to them. To protect your eyes, be sure to wear sunglasses or safety glasses that filter out UV rays.
Sunscreen - Use an SPF 15 or higher water-resistant sunscreen before going outdoors and reapply every two hours. If sweating freely, reapply more often. Choose a gel, stick, or lotion form of sunscreen according to personal preference; no one form is more effective than another. Make sure the face, lips, neck, ears, arms and back of the hands are protected.
Industrial chemicals such as asphalt and diphenyls and some medications can increase the sun’s effects. A water-resistant sunscreen will help give protection when there is likely to be skin contact with these substances. Also, ultraviolet radiation bounces off water, sand, concrete, light-colored surfaces and snow. People who work near these areas will need to take extra care.
Shade - A temporary shelter can be erected or trees and buildings used for protection. A shady spot should be available for lunch and coffee breaks. Reorganize the job so tasks requiring outdoor work get done in the morning before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m., to avoid the hours of greatest sun intensity.
As the weather warms and summer arrives, take the proper precautions and educate yourself about the signs of skin anomalies. Having a healthy glow or appearance could lead to illness.