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industrial solvents, cleaning products and Portland cement – all of which can cause contact dermatitis and other uncomfortable skin conditions. They also can experience allergic reactions from exposure to poison ivy and oak, epoxy resins, nickel, chromates and acrylics commonly found around mine sites. It’s estimated that about seventy-five per cent of workers with occupational dermatitis ultimately develop chronic skin diseases that are uncomfortable and costly to treat, BLS says. A single case of occupational dermatitis can cost an employer, on average, US $3,500 in workers’ compensation claims, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. One threat to the skin, however, quite literally outshines all others for the many mine and quarry labourers who work outdoors – the sun and its ultraviolet (UV) rays. While underground miners don’t face as high of a risk, open-cut mine and quarry workers (and especially those

Occupational skin irritations and disease aren’t just unpleasant; they can lead to poor morale and absenteeism, which slashes productivity and adds to costs. Companies can also lose income if skin disease leads to prolonged absences from work.

involved in exploration and drilling) spend most of their time outdoors, where UV radiation can constitute a significant health hazard. Outdoor workers are exposed to six to eight times as much UV radiation than indoor workers, according to Alberta Prevents Cancer’s BeSunsible program, making them up to 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancers. A mel-

anoma patient misses an average of 28 days of work, according to the Canadian Skin Care Foundation, and those affected with less-aggressive forms of skin cancer miss an average of 14 days. Exposure to the UV rays can lead to painful sunburns, premature aging and skin cancer. While UVA rays activate melatonin in the skin and help it darken in response to sunlight, UVB rays are more damaging. A sunburn is the sign of overexposure to UVB light, and the risk of developing skin cancer – the most commonly-occurring cancer worldwide – accumulates over a person’s lifetime with every burn. While light-complected people are more likely to develop skin cancers, no one is completely safe. Recognizing the Risk

By recognizing potential risks – even those that are easily prevented – safety professionals can safeguard employees against incidents that cause the most harm. The prevalence of UV-caused skin irritation among miners and quarry

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