Summer’s here – make sure workers don’t get burned

With the hot summer months upon us, Americans are soaking up the sun as they embark on beach vacations, host backyard barbecues and engage in outdoor activities with kids who’ve been sprung from their classrooms.

Many are slathering on sunscreen to avoid the hot, stinging sensation that accompanies sunburn, as well as to protect themselves from harmful ultraviolet rays that lead to skin cancer. After all, the American Cancer Society reports that a whopping 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed in the United States each year, more than all other types of cancer combined.1

Small-business owners whose employees spend long hours working in the sun should caution their workers about their increased susceptibility to skin cancer. Construction workers, roofers, pool technicians, farmers, road workers, gardeners – any employee whose job includes exposure to UV rays should be made aware of the risks involved.

Minimizing physical danger

What can employers do to minimize the sun’s danger to workers? Here are a few practical tips:

  • Try to develop schedules that limit outside work between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • When possible, provide canopies or covering over outdoor areas where people are working.
  • Continually educate employees about the harmful effects of UV radiation and the importance of sunscreen.
  • Encourage workers to wear lightweight, protective clothing that is dense enough to prevent the penetration of UV rays.
  • Provide hats for outdoor workers.
  • Provide sunscreen dispensers and encourage workers to apply the lotion regularly.
  • Encourage workers who see a change in their skin to see a dermatologist. The American Cancer Society says these are things to watch for:
    • Changes in the size or color of a mole or other darkly pigmented spot.
    • Dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark.
    • Scaliness, oozing, bleeding, itchiness, tenderness or pain.
    • New moles or dark spots.
Minimizing fiscal danger

Employers should not only help educate and protect workers from the physical dangers of skin cancer, they should help protect them against the financial dangers too. One way to do so is by providing employees with the opportunity to apply for supplemental cancer insurance, also known as specified-disease insurance.

These policies can help provide a financial safety net not only in the event of a skin cancer diagnosis, but in the event of any cancer diagnosis. After all, the risk of getting cancer is great. In the United States, men have slightly less than a one in two lifetime risk of developing cancer. For women the risk is slightly more than one in three.2

A supplemental cancer/specified-disease insurance policy can help protect employees’ income and savings from expenses that aren’t covered by major medical insurance. For example, benefits can be used to cover out-of-pocket medical costs, travel and lodging for treatment and child care expenses. They can even be used to pay normal living expenses, such as the car payment, mortgage or rent and utility bills.

Insurers often receive letters from workers who’ve learned first-hand how important cancer insurance can be. Here’s what one policyholder had to say about what happened after she applied for cancer coverage:

Little did I know that a short time later my husband would be told he had melanoma cancer Stage 4 that started from a birthmark. He went through his first round of testing, biopsy, CT and PT scans. I told my agent I didn't think it was worth the hassle of getting the insurance forms filled out and sent back. She said, “I know it's a lot of work but it will pay off.”

It has!

The policy has been a real blessing for us in our time of need. We are traveling from Oklahoma to Houston, Texas, for treatment and it has helped to cover our expenses.

1The American Cancer Society, Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection, accessed May 17, 2013 -
2American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 2013, accessed May 17, 2013 -