State workplace health and safety legislation requires that employers provide a safe work environment for employees, and this extends to protecting them from the harm of UV radiation. All employers who have employees at risk of sun exposure during the workday should implement a sun-safe policy. Sun protection
Employees are also responsible for a safe work environment by taking care of their own health and safety, not negatively affecting the health and safety of other people, and following any reasonable instruction and workplace health and safety policies.
Workers at risk of UV exposure are not limited to working in typical outdoor roles such as those in the building and construction industries. Transport drivers, fitness coaches, surveyors, outdoor events workers, maintenance crews, and telecommunications workers to name a few, are also at high risk of exposure due to the nature of their work. Where any worker has the likelihood of some UV exposure at work, employers should consider implementing a sun safety policy.
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. This is due to the high levels of UV radiation Australia experiences. Naturally, outdoor workers have a higher risk of developing skin cancer as they are exposed to 5-10 times more UV radiation than indoor workers are.
The recommendations from the Cancer Council stand. In order to be protected against UV radiation damage, the following should occur:
- Slip on sun-protective work clothing (cover as much skin as possible)
- Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen (apply every 2 hours)
- Slap on a hat
- Seek shade (work and take breaks in the shade)
- Slide on some sunglasses
According to the Cancer Council, all five of the steps used together provide the best protection from the sun.
For employers, there is an obligation to implement appropriate practices to ensure workers who are exposed to the sun during the course of their work day, are adequately sun-protected and their risk is minimised.
For example, your sun-safe policy may cover;
- Scheduling work outside of the peak UV times to minimise UV exposure
- Providing/utilising shade when working and for breaks
- Providing/utilising protective clothing such as long-sleeve shirts, hats, and sunglasses
- Providing sunscreen for employees to apply every two hours
Monitoring and management of non-compliance with your sun-safe policy is of the utmost importance to ensure worker UV exposure is minimised.
The Cancer Council has written an informative Guide for employers on the topic of Skin Cancer and Outdoor Work. We highly recommend you visit their site and take action to ensure your staff are protected.