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July 16, 2007
Staying Safe in the Sizzling Summer Sun

It's strong, it's hot, and it can be dangerous! Although sunlight is essential for the production of the necessary nutrient, Vitamin D, too much UV (ultraviolet) light from the sun can be hazardous to your health. Over time, UV light can cause two primary hazards: skin cancer due to unprotected exposure and damage to the eyes in the forms of cataracts and macular degeneration (a disorder in which the central part of the retina is damaged and often results in blindness). Employees who work outdoors are most at risk; however, during the summer, it's likely that all your workers spend a good deal of time in the sun on personal time too. So it's wise to train all your workers on the risks of exposure to UV light and suggest precautions they can take to protect their health.

Why It Matters...
  • During the summer, the level of UV radiation is three times greater than during the winter. And the more you're exposed to UV light, the greater the risk.
  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States (more than 1 million cases reported annually), and it's also the most preventable form of cancer.
  • Although simple, sensible precautions can prevent health problems, many people fail to protect themselves from UV light either because they're not aware of the precautions or because they just don't take the risks seriously enough.

This month is an especially good time to conduct this kind of wellness training--not only because the sun is highest and hottest in July, but also because it is UV Safety Month.

Doctors say that everyone is at risk of skin cancer, regardless of their skin tone or color. Some people, however, are at greater risk of skin cancer than others. Those most at risk have:

  • Fair skin
  • Blond or red hair
  • Blue, green, or gray eyes
  • More than 100 moles (or 50 by age 20)
  • Excessive sun exposure (especially as a child or teenager)
  • A family history of skin cancer

Advise all employees to see a doctor if they find a mole or blemish that:

  • Is asymmetrical, with one half different from the other
  • Has an irregular border
  • Has different colors
  • Has a diameter larger than a pencil eraser

Any of these signs might indicate skin cancer. So strongly recommend that workers should waste no time in having any symptoms checked out.

A few simple precautions can help prevent health problems. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to help prevent health problems resulting from overexposure to UV light. Remind employees, especially those who work outdoors every day, to take the following precautions this summer:

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher whenever you're going to be out in the sun for any length of time.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses that block 99 percent to 100 percent of UV light.
  • If it's not too hot, wear long sleeves and long pants to keep skin covered.
  • On weekends and vacations, or when work doesn't require you to be out in the sun, limit UV light exposure time during the hottest part of the day (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
  • Check the daily UV Index (reports can be found in local newspapers, on television, or on the Web at the U.S. National Weather Service), and be especially careful when the index is high.
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