In an increasingly hot Europe, the sun is the number one cancer risk for employees.

UM – 11/2023

One in five employees is exposed to solar UV radiation. This was revealed in a study published on 17 November by the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (OSHA). The survey was carried out in six member states, including Germany. It provides information on the occupational exposure of workers to the 24 known cancer risk factors.

Micro-enterprises particularly at risk

The study also analyses the link between exposure and certain working conditions. Employees in the construction industry, agriculture, emergency services and transport are particularly at risk. However, the results also show an increased risk for employees in micro and small companies as well as for employees who work more than 50 hours per week. The European Trade Union Confederation ETUC has therefore called on European politicians to tighten up legislation in order to better protect workers from the risks of climate change.

Breaks are important

Better protection should also include the right of workers to take breaks during the most dangerous times of the day and the obligation of employers to provide access to shade, water and protective clothing. The European Trade Union Institute ETUI has conducted a study on solar radiation, which states that shade is the measure of choice. Clothing and sun protection products are merely filters that often do not completely block UV radiation. Preventive measures should always be taken against the environmental factors first. This also applies to the risk of heat.

Also take heat seriously

At present, however, preparation for heat events is not mandatory in prevention management. Most countries have developed heat plans. However, the protection of employees is rarely addressed. Heat stress is not an insignificant problem. It jeopardises well-being, impairs work productivity and in some cases also poses a safety risk. Exposure to heat in the workplace also reflects social inequalities and threatens to exacerbate the social divide.