Workers Health & Safety Centre

Upcoming workshop to explore shade solutions to cancer-causing sun exposure

Solar ultra violet (UV) radiation is a significant occupational cancer threat in Ontario, according to the Occupational Cancer Research Centre.
 
Nearly half a million workers in the province are exposed each year, causing an estimated 1,400 non-melanoma skin cancer cases.
 
On May 1, participants of a Toronto-based, skin cancer-prevention workshop, or “bootcamp”, will learn to create the most basic and effective form of prevention for this wide-reaching cancer type — namely shade.
 
Shade Bootcamp will feature intense, hands-on training to identify and create opportunities for shade in public places. It will be especially helpful for outdoor workers — who often work outside between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when solar UV is the strongest — says event organizer George Kapelos, an associate professor at Ryerson University’s Department of Architectural Science and chair of the Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition’s UV radiation working group.
 
“Participating in this workshop will give workers a voice in telling others about their issues and the best ways they think a community could make every place sun-safe,” says Kapelos. “We’re hoping the range of approaches that may come out of the bootcamp will provide communities across Ontario, as well as those places that hire outdoor workers, with ideas about the best way to get shade into a community and, together, work toward skin cancer prevention.”
 
The bootcamp, sponsored by the Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition, Toronto Public Health and Ryerson University’s Department of Architectural Science, runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ryerson University’s Architecture Building, 325 Church Street.
 
What:  Shade Bootcamp
When: Tuesday, May 1, 2018 — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Toronto, Ontario — Ryerson University, Department of Architectural Science, Room ARC202 - The PIT, 325 Church Street
Who: Workers, worker representatives and all concerned with cancer prevention

Everyone is exposed to solar UV radiation. It’s energy from the sun. But it can be a serious problem for outdoor workers, according to Sun Safety at Work.
 
Outdoor workers have an up to 3.5 times greater risk of developing skin cancer compared to indoor workers — a situation that may only get worse.

“With climate change, we will see an increase in levels of UV and heat alerts,” says Kapelos.
 
Consequently, in addition to teaching people how to create shade, the Shade Bootcamp has another important objective: to reduce the gap between UV radiation evidence and policy.
 
“There is no consistent policy with regard to shade in Ontario,” says Kapelos. “Making people aware of the importance of the issue and developing policies that will turn theorizing about skin cancer prevention into practicing good prevention...I hope will put this health issue on the radar of policy makers and communities-at-large.”
 
While key to prevention, shade solutions are not the only answer, adds Kapelos. For instance, he says more consideration should be given to the scheduling of work. “It might be there is greater latitude given to the timing of outdoor workers’ activities, scheduling them beyond the normal work hours that are currently followed.”
 
In their latest report on the burden of worker cancer in Ontario, the province’s Occupational Cancer Research Centre recommends workplaces develop a comprehensive, multi-component sun safety program. Program implementation should include:  
  • A hazard assessment to identify worker exposures;
  • Sun protection control measures; and
  • Sun protection training to help prevent solar UV radiation exposures.  

For questions regarding the upcoming shade solutions workshop contact George Thomas Kapelos at 416-979-5000 ext. 6510 or gkapelos@ryerson.ca.
 
Meantime, WHSC offers a wide range of training programs and resources, including many aimed at cancer prevention. To learn more, get in touch with a WHSC training services representation at 1-888-869-7950 or contact@whsc.on.ca.