Sun protection a full-time effort for Whistler Blackcomb employees 

Suncreen, hats and shade help outdoor workers avoid sun damage

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How much sunscreen do Whistler Blackcomb (WB) employees use in a year? Depends if it's in bulk or an individual 12-mL package.

It's about 63 litres of bulk Croc Block, and 126 packages of Smart Shield — all of it SPF 30, of course.

Miriam Bougie, WB's COR (WorkSafeBC's Certificate of Recognition) program supervisor said employees always need to be reminded of sun protection because so many of them work outdoors all day.

Educating employees about sun damage is crucial in light of a WorkSafeBC report about six claims for malignant skin that have been accepted for some B.C. workers who are at risk for work-related sun exposure. WorkSafe reported that those most at risk for sun-related damage are those who work in construction, agriculture, letter carriers, electricians and delivery and courier-service drivers.

In 2015, 85,000 Canadians were diagnosed with skin cancer, and the rate is increasing. Sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer and can cause other health effects including sunburn, skin damage, cataracts, eye lesions, eye cancer, and heat-related illness.

"Here in B.C. preventing skin cancer and other occupational diseases is a high priority," said Al Johnson, Vice President, Prevention Services at WorkSafeBC.

Under B.C.'s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, employers of outdoor workers are required to conduct a sun exposure assessment to determine the level of risk to workers and a sun exposure plan to effectively manage the risk, if one is identified.

Bougie said WB constantly updates and reminds workers about sun safety.

"I think the one thing that is a variable is that people don't factor in the elevation and how elevation plays a role in exposure to UV. So we do touch on that," she said. "With every (300 metres) of elevation there's an element of increased UV exposure."

And you might not realize the differences between sunscreens.

"I definitely do — I've done my research on sunblocks that may be higher quality than others," said Bougie. "Sometimes you go and buy the giant tub and perhaps it's quite cost effective but it may not be offering the most protection."

Bougie said staff feedback is important so they get the right product for outdoor workers, who are 3.5 times more likely than indoor workers to develop skin cancer.

"...In instances where (staff was) in the sun and sweating, the initial sunblock that we provided wasn't sweat-proof, so they got an alternate," she said.

Aside from sunscreen, Bougie said staff is provided with broad-rimmed hats, and special shirts and pants for protection, as well as pop-up tents for shade at various locations.

And as far as Bougie can recall, there hasn't been an instance of someone calling in sick with a case of sunburn.

"I can recall a few years ago, one of the Crankworx events where it was really hot and we were delivering bottles of water, and we did have some employees come in and complain they weren't feeling the greatest. We would try to find them an alternate work location that wouldn't have them exposed to the heat and to the sun as well."

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