People working outdoors are exposed to solar UV radiation. Some two to three million workers in Germany are believed to spend over 75% of their working hours outdoors. This definition of an "outdoor worker" is arbitrary; workers are subject in some cases to considerable radiation exposure even below this nominal threshold.
UV radiation can cause skin cancer. Despite UV radiation being classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a class 1 carcinogen, the risk of skin cancer induced by it has for years not been appreciated by workers, and by the same token has not been addressed in prevention activity. Similarly, differentiated, robust exposure data permitting assessment of whether or not a case of a disease is occupational in origin are not available. Criteria that enable the UV exposure of insured individuals to be assessed retrospectively were drawn up in a working group comprising representatives of the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions and headed by the IFA.
The purpose of this project is to conduct measurement campaigns in order to determine the occupational UV radiation exposure of workers during their time spent working outdoors. Since this issue is of great interest both in Europe and worldwide, activity in cooperation with foreign partners is also desired.
As part of the project, the GENESIS system with which long-term measurements can be performed locally was developed in IFA Project 4207 Creation of the GENESIS measurement system. The project was conducted in conjunction with the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions with application of GENESIS in the form of GENESIS-UV. An electronic data logger/dosimeter was used which is capable of measuring the UV radiation, acceleration (for validating the measurement) and magnetic field strength (for determining the orientation of the dosimeter with respect to the sun).
Up to 300 test persons each year were to be equipped with the GENESIS-UV dosimeters. They were to be selected and recruited by the accident insurance institutions. Each test subject was to wear the dosimeter during working hours from 1 April to 31 October of one year. The cycle time for measurement of all parameters was to be one measurement per second. Five measurement campaigns were planned from 2014 to 2018.
The accident insurance institutions had the option of requiring the test persons to keep a written log of their tasks. From the 2016 measurement season onwards, the GENESIS client was to contain an electronic diary prepopulated with occupational profiles. Each test subject could therefore record for each day what work tasks (up to a maximum of five) were performed and at what times.
The project was coordinated by a system of measurement mentors. Each participating accident insurance institution appointed a contact for the project management team. The contact managed all mentors, for example by means of a network of regional disseminators.
With the involvement of around 1,000 test persons, GENESIS-UV enabled approximately 3.7 billion data records to be obtained in Germany in the period from 2014 to 2018. These data records contained information on the UV radiation, acceleration, time and other parameters. The raw data were processed further with regard to calibration and data errors by detailed routines, and then evaluated scientifically by inspection in iterative processes. Metadata were generated from the one-second cycle data. Mean values per half hour, monthly mean values per day and annual radiation exposures for occupations, sub-task groups and sub-tasks were calculated from the data. Together with the task profiles for each occupation and each sub-task group, these values enable direct conclusions to be drawn regarding the radiation. Altogether, 95 occupations comprising 172 sub-task groups and 646 sub-tasks were analysed and made available for subsequent use in prevention activity.
A number of international joint activities were conducted with a range of foci:
These and other joint activities on a smaller scale are intended to generate data in countries beyond Germany and to lend them validity by publication in scientific journals.
In the years to come, further measurements will be conducted in the occupational sphere to plug gaps in the results in areas where measurements have not yet been obtained on sufficient scale. Following interpretation and assessment by experts, the results of the measurements taken in Germany will be made available on a website.
This project is closely linked to IFA Project 4228, which provides information on interpretation of the data.
-cross sectoral-Type of hazard:
occupational disease, exposure, radiation