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Virgin Trains Powers Ahead with Sun Protection

Paul Jakeway
August 14, 2018

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Every year, 1,700 people develop skin cancer from sun exposure at work – equivalent to five people each day.[1] However, 90% of skin cancer deaths[2] could have been prevented if exposure to UV rays were controlled.


Every employer should want to invest in the best measures to effectively protect employees’ safety and health in the workplace. The sun can pose a huge risk for outdoor workers, so it is essential that they are appropriately safeguarded.


Deb is delighted to have recently worked with Virgin Trains East Coast to provide the right sun protection solution to ensure employees are protected from harmful UV rays all year round.


Understanding the risk


Virgin Trains East Coast is home to 250 employees, many of which spend their whole working day outside operating forklift trucks or marshalling trains, often exposed to direct sun light and varying UV levels. Yet many of the workers at the depot underestimated the need to protect their skin.


In order to better protect employees’ skin, the London-based depot chose to partner with Deb, who recently introduced specialist sunscreen solutions to the workplace.


Tracey Warne, Safety, Health & Environment Manager at Virgin Trains East Coast explains: “Our employees are a huge part of why Virgin Trains is so successful – it is essential that they are looked after for their own health and wellbeing, which will in turn be beneficial for the company as a whole. We understand our responsibilities and have turned to Deb to help protect and improve the skin health of our workforce.”


Establishing skin care needs


Before specifying UV products, Deb conducted a site survey to establish the skin care needs of employees and ensure that the appropriate products were provided.


Five Deb UV skin safety centres have been installed at the premises, which have been strategically placed at the entrance and exits of the depot to ensure they are easily accessible for workers and to increase compliance.


Employee feedback


Employees have commented that the sunscreen dispensers are easy to use, and the cream doesn’t leave a greasy film on the skin after use, resulting in manual handling tasks being carried out effectively. The sunscreen protection provided is also water and sweat-resistant, leaving skin protected for longer.


Continuing the journey with training


Training is an important aspect of skin health compliance, however in a study by IOSH, 70% of employees said they had never received any training on the risks of working in the sun.


Deb conducted a series of Toolbox Talks with employees, educating them on the importance of applying the sunscreen provided, and when and how the products should be used. This was paired with a UV wheel at each UV station, which can be adjusted each day to display the daily UV level. When set to three or above, employees know that UV protection is required.


The UV station also contains helpful information on when and how to apply the cream, and also includes a mirror so the employees are able to ensure that they don’t miss any exposed areas.


Tracey adds: “Deb has helped to ensure that employees at the depot are well-informed about the risks of skin cancer and are armed with effective products to protect themselves. As an employer, being able to influence the health and well-being of our workers is an incredibly powerful thing.”




An employer’s duty of care


Two thirds of UK construction workers, who spend an average of nearly seven hours a day outside, don’t know the full extent of the dangers of unprotected sun exposure. Even on overcast days, 90% of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds[3], therefore it’s crucial that workers are protected all year round and understand the different levels of UV.


Employers have a duty of care to protect their employees from hazards – and, according to HSE guidelines, UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for people who work outside.




[1] IOSH No Time To Lose Solar Radiation Campaign

[2] Cancer Research UK

[3] Cancer Research UK


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