Left Side of Truck Driver’s Face Ages Decades Faster Than Right Side. Should Trucking Companies Be Required to Supply Sunscreen?
When one thinks of the occupational hazards related to truck driving, skin cancer does not immediately come to mind. Crashes related to sleep deprivation, emotional trauma, even back pain and blood clots seem more likely on the surface.
But anyone who has taken a long road trip only to find their left arm badly burned upon arrival might be able to offer a different perspective. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays can have seriously negative effects. Dermatologists Jennifer R.S. Gordon and Joaquin C. Brieva recently did a study on dermatoheliosis — or “photoaging” — that included a 69-year old trucker as a case study. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and blogged about by Gizmodo:
A 69-year-old man presented with a 25-year history of gradual, asymptomatic thickening and wrinkling of the skin on the left side of his face. The physical examination showed hyperkeratosis with accentuated ridging, multiple open comedones, and areas of nodular elastosis. Histopathological analysis showed an accumulation of elastolytic material in the dermis and the formation of milia within the vellus hair follicles. Findings were consistent with the Favre–Racouchot syndrome of photodamaged skin, known as dermatoheliosis.
The patient reported that he had driven a delivery truck for 28 years. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays transmit through window glass, penetrating the epidermis and upper layers of dermis. Chronic UVA exposure can result in thickening of the epidermis and stratum corneum, as well as destruction of elastic fibers. This photoaging effect of UVA is contrasted with photocarcinogenesis.
The man, pictured above, has severe aging and skin damage to the left side of his face from prolonged exposure to the sun over the duration of his career. At a time when truckers are being misclassified as independent contractors and fired for trying to unionize it seems unlikely that employers will spontaneously pony up for sunscreen after seeing the picture of one man’s worn face. But there is a legitimate case to be made that this occupational hazard is as dangerous as any considering the inevitability of a truck driver’s exposure to the sun versus the likelihood of getting in a wreck. It affects every worker in this field.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer with more than 2 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer found in the U.S. each year. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) there will be 75,000 cases of Melenoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, diagnosed in 2012 alone.
Obviously, overexposure to the sun is not solely a concern for truckers. Other construction workers — from ironworkers to roofers and anyone else working lengthy outdoor shifts — are subject to these same dangers. Companies would do well to offer sunscreen to workers as a way to both care for overall employee health and cut down on healthcare costs.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) provides online guidelines for employee/employer sun protection but OSHA 1910.132 suggests nothing is mandatory whatsoever regarding employers supplying the means of protection:
The employer is not required to pay for:
The logging boots required by 29 CFR 1910.266(d)(1)(v);
Everyday clothing, such as long-sleeve shirts, long pants, street shoes, and normal work boots; or
Ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen.
This is perhaps an area in which worker representatives should spend some energy.