Sun Care Best Practices for Pool and Hot Tub Professionals

It is important for outdoor workers to understand the risks of sun and ultraviolet (UV) exposure and know the steps to minimize their risk.

The prevalence of skin cancer is on the rise and not just in North America, but worldwide. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the incidence of non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has been increasing over the past several decades. Currently, between two and three million skin cancers occur globally each year. One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer, and more than 65,000 people worldwide die from melanoma each year.

Additionally, skin cancer accounts for nearly 50 percent of all cancers combined. The danger is especially high for those who work outdoors, including pool, hot tub, and landscaping professionals.

With this in mind, it is important for outdoor workers to understand the risks of sun and ultraviolet (UV) exposure and know the steps to minimize their risk. Workers should execute safe sun practices such as covering up in the summer months, taking breaks in the shade, using sunscreen, and drinking plenty of water.

Understanding the risk

Those working outdoors can be exposed to 10 times the recommended daily exposure levels for UV radiation, making them exponentially more likely to develop skin cancer than the general population.

Further, even though outdoor workers are at a high risk for developing this disease (depending on their sun safety practices), it is important to note no two workers are the same. For instance, age, ethnicity, family history, and other conditions can play a factor. The risks can increase for those with fair skin, a family history of skin cancer, a weakened immune system, existing skin conditions, and those who are exposed to certain chemicals.

Skin cancer can develop in those of any age, but as workers get older, increasing their time spent in the sun, there is more time for built-up sun damage to the skin. Additionally, although the risk of developing skin cancer is rather low for most African Americans, Asians, and Latinos, the disease is typically more deadly for these groups.

That said, skin cancer is preventable, but it is incumbent on those who work outside and those they work for to educate and assist workers in preventing this potentially life-threatening illness.

Minimizing the risks

Outdoor workers should consider the following four steps to minimize their risks of skin cancer:

  1. Seek shade whenever possible.
  2. Cover up by keeping shirts, hats, and sunglasses on (if possible).
  3. Use sun protection that is at least SPF30 daily—especially between March and August—and make sure to reapply regularly throughout the day.
  4. Perform routine self-examinations to check for unusual moles or spots.

Employers should also adopt the following strategies as part of their employee health and safety strategies:

  • Include sun protection guidance in routine health and safety training and make appropriate sunscreen products available at each facility or company vehicle.
  • Incorporate sun exposure as part of the hazard risk assessment.
  • Require workers to follow the four-step process outlined above.
  • Make fresh drinking water available to workers and encourage them to drink regularly to avoid dehydration.

Understanding sunscreen protection

When time spent in the sun cannot be avoided, having a good understanding of sunscreen protection is crucial. Sunscreens of at least SPF30 are recommended and should be labeled broad spectrum to protect against both UV-A (aging) and UV-B (burning) rays. Sunscreens with a higher SPF rating may block slightly more UV rays; however, it is important to keep in mind that no sunscreen can offer 100 percent protection.

Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied regularly throughout the day. It should also be reapplied after 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, and immediately after towel drying (or at least every two hours).

Additionally, the proper amount of sunscreen for an adult full-body application is two to three tablespoons—or about a shot glass full. Workers should make sure to cover all areas of exposed skin, including the face, arms, top of the head, and behind the ears, as 90 percent of skin cancers occur on parts of the body that are not typically covered by clothing.

Additional resources

The dangers associated with sun exposure, particularly for outdoor workers, is sometimes overlooked in the workplace. Education is the key to prevention; therefore, it is important to work with a partner or vendor who can provide the right products and guidance. A supplier should be able to work closely with employers to put strategies and systems in place to help educate and protect outdoor workers.

Detecting skin cancer
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is “the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.” Much of the damage to DNA in skin cells results from ultraviolet (UV) radiation found in sunlight. This damage can happen years before cancer develops. Like many other forms of this disease, skin cancers start as precancerous lesions. These lesions are changes in the skin that are not cancer but can become cancer over time. For this reason, it is important to know the signs and symptoms to be prepared.

Workers must check their skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. The ‘ABCDE’ rule of melanoma is one method outdoor workers can use to do this. A melanoma can grow anywhere on the body, so workers should check themselves from head to toe, about once a month, for any changes or abnormalities.

A = asymmetry—when one-half of the mole does not match the other.
B = border—When the borders of the mole are irregular, ragged, or blurred.
C = colour—When the color of the mole varies throughout, or there is no uniform pigmentation.
D = diameter—When the diameter is greater than 6 mm (0.2 in.). It can be smaller, however.
E = evolving—Changes in the mole over time; weeks, months, or years.

Fortunately, malignant melanoma is curable if found and treated early. A delay in diagnosis can result in the malignant melanoma spreading to other spots and organs within the body. If workers have any of the above signs or symptoms, they should consult their doctor immediately.

This article was written by Isabelle Faivre and originally appeared on Pool & Spa Marketing [link].