Workplaces provide an ideal environment for supporting healthy lifestyle practices. Many workplaces already engage in activities to promote physical activity and healthy eating.
It is important that Queensland workplaces make sun safety a priority, particularly for employees who spend time working in outdoor environments.
Outdoor workers are at a high risk of developing skin cancer; as they can receive 5-10 times more UVR exposure per year than indoor workers .(1)
People who work outdoors are generally exposed to the sun when the UV index is high to very high.
It has been estimated that around 200 melanomas and 34,000 non melanoma skin cancers are caused by occupational UVR exposure in Australia each year. (2)
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 outlines the obligations on people at workplaces to ensure health and safety. The Act outlines what must be done to control/ prevent workplace hazards which cause illness, injury or death.
UV exposure is a hazard, and as such, employers and employees both have roles and responsibilities under the Act to ensure appropriate measures are taken to prevent over-exposure.
What can you do as an employee:
The most effective way to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer is to protect yourself in five ways using the recommended sun protection methods:
- Work in the shade if you can
- Wear clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible
- Wear a broadbrim, bucket or legionnaire style hat, if you need to wear a hard hat ensure you have a brim and flap
- Apply broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen and remember to reapply every two hours
- Wear wraparound sunglasses, (check they meet the Australian standard AS/NZS 1067:2003 or are marked EPF 10)
- You can also ask if your organisation has a Sun Protection Policy, if not, you could offer to help develop one
- Talk to your employer about the possibility of scheduling outdoor work off-peak UV periods and consider the possibility of job rotation to reduce UVR exposure
- Remind your colleagues to use sun protection
- Check your own skin regularly and if you notice any new moles or lesions or changes in existing ones have them checked by a doctor.
What can you do as an employer or workplace:
Reduce employees’ exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun by implementing a comprehensive sun safety policy. The policy should include:
- Provision and use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) – including sun protective clothing, hats, sunglasses and broad-spectrum SPF 30+ or higher sunscreen as appropriate
- Re-organising work schedules so that outdoor work is undertaken in the early morning or late afternoon and rotating tasks that involve direct sun exposure where possible
- Shade provision, fixed or portable
- Training and education
The sun safety policy should be implemented consistently and monitored.
Resources and Information for Employees:
- Sun Safety for Employees Factsheet (needs updating)
- WorkCover Queensland – Stop for safety – Sun safety fact sheet
- WorkCover Queensland – Stop for Safety kit – contains everything you need to host a short health and safety event in the workplace on sun safety.
- Dangers in your workplace ‘The Sun’ – WorkCover Queensland -The WHS Regulation requires all employers or self-employed people are to protect themselves and their workers from the risk of exposure to hazards.
- Workplace Sun Safety Case Study – Zero Harm at Work case study Energex Sun Safety – a case study from Energex highlighting their successful skincare prevention program.
- Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (APANSA). (2003). Resource guide for UV protective products. Commonwealth of Australia.
- Fritschi, L. and Driscoll, T. (2006). Cancer due to occupation in Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 30(3), pp: 213-219.