Could Corporate Skin Checks Reduce the Cost of Skin Cancer in the Workplace

Could Corporate Skin Checks Reduce the Cost of Skin Cancer in the Workplace

Workplace exposure to UV radiation causes approximately 200 melanomas and 34,000 non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia yearly. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, accounting for 80% of all new cancer diagnoses, could workplace skin checks reduce this statistic? People who work outdoors, including fishermen, construction workers, farmers, landscapers and miners, are especially at risk. The trades, many of which are outdoors, are the third most common type of occupation in Australia.

Cancer can be an incredibly difficult diagnosis to deal with, depending on the severity and time of detection. On top of the initial shock, a diagnosis greatly impacts all aspects of one’s life, including work. Here is more information on the price workers pay at work when diagnosed with skin cancer and what can be done about it.

Psychological impacts of skin cancer in the workplace

Anxiety, depression, stress are all common emotions that cancer patients experience. Some might go through the stages of grief if they are having to undergo continuous treatment or have surgery. The overwhelming negative emotions in response to a cancer diagnosis also impacts physical health, worsening one’s prospects for a good quality of life. 

Work is often called “livelihood” for a reason, and it goes beyond simply earning money. Many people get a sense of purpose, confidence and independence from their work. It is a fact that the unemployed experience depression and anxiety much more so than the employed. Anyone diagnosed with skin cancer must take time off work, sometimes for extended periods, or they might not be able to work any longer. Stress itself worsens one’s mental health, so counselling becomes an important resource for people coping with their diagnoses. 

Social impacts of skin cancer in the workplace

People undergoing the primary treatment for skin cancer, surgery, often feel self-conscious due to the varying levels of scarring it produces, especially if the cancer is on the face or neck. Their families become part of their support network, and their diagnoses have a negative impact on them as well. Their friends, too, experience difficulty. Patients might experience depression so great that they isolate themselves from their loved ones, which is the last thing they should do health-wise.

More than 2,000 Australians die from skin cancer every year.

Financial impacts of skin cancer in the workplace

Part of the problem with getting skin cancer diagnosed early is recognising when to go to the doctor. It is easy for people to assume that a small skin tag, for example, is benign. Skin cancer treatment can be expensive, especially if it was not detected early enough or if it returned after going into remission. And because the patient is missing time from work for treatment, they are lacking income. They might have unplanned expenses, which stress them out even more. Workplace skin checks by employers are an excellent workplace initiative to enable early detection and can be easily performed on-site. 

For employers, work-related skin cancer claims are costly as well. In fact, between 2006 and 2016, they cost NSW more than $12 million. Workers who have skin cancer claims are often unable to maintain their hours, leading to issues with having a sufficient number of employees. The true cost of skin cancer is enormous for human resource managers, who are responsible for hiring employees, employee benefits, records and administrative functions of their business. 

Addressing the problem

It is possible to prevent cancer, especially skin cancer. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer in Australia, and is the third most commonly diagnosed after basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. But it is the easiest to prevent among the three.

While 95% of Australian workers use some form of sun protection, a mere 9% are fully protected. Protecting workers from UV rays involves shielding them from both light and heat, health risks which are inseparable from each other. OSHA legislation in Victoria addresses employers’ responsibility to provide sun protection by helping them provide shade, clothing, rescheduling work around peak sun times, reorganising tasks and monitoring UV levels. Such measures prevent repeated and long-term exposure to the sun. Most importantly, a minor investment to implement a sun protection program along with industry-specific wellness and health assessments for workers can prevent most skin cancer claims. Corporate skin cancer assessments and workplace skin checks provide the benefit of an annual initiative for employees to get skin checks, taking away from the cost and inconvenience of doctor visits.

Skin cancer is a costly medical problem for outdoor workers, their loved ones and their employers. It is necessary to spread awareness and information on how to minimise the risk of developing it and how to detect it early. Workers can take steps against the highly preventable disease, but regular onsite corporate skin checks provide employees with risk mitigation and peace of mind.

References

Cancer Australia. Skin Cancer. (2019, June 21). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer.html

SunSmart. (2014, October 2). Skin cancer costs Victorian workplaces more than $6.2 million over 10 years. Retrieved from https://www.sunsmart.com.au/about/media-campaigns/media-releases/2014-media-releases/skin-cancer-costs-victorian-workplaces-more-than-6-2-million-over-10-years.html

Linn, M. W. & Stein, S. (1985, May). Effects of unemployment on mental and physical health. NCBI, 75(5).Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1646287/

Cancer Council. (2018, December). Skin cancer and outdoor work: A work health and safety guide. Retrieved from https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Skin-cancer-and-outdoor-work-booklet-Oct2018-v2.pdf

.id, the population experts. (2016) Community profile Australia: Occupation of employment. Retrieved from https://profile.id.com.au/australia/occupations

Clun, Rachel. (2019, January 16). ‘It could have gone further’: the true cost of workers’ skin cancer. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace/it-could-have-gone-further-the-true-cost-of-workers-skin-cancer-20190115-p50rgb.html