Sun protection should be a major concern for outdoor workers in Australia, but not all take it seriously, with a new study finding that 38 percent aren't properly protected on the job.
The data from Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey shows only an 11 percent increase in the implementation of sun protection policies since the survey was first undertaken in 2003. It's a worrying finding, particularly at the end of Safe Work Month and the start of a period where the sun's effects are more widely felt across the country.
In response, the Cancer Council has released a new resource entitled Skin Cancer and Outdoor work – a health and safety guide. The guide provides employers with the understanding needed to meet their health and safety obligations and ensure employees are not exposed to harmful UV radiation.
"Employers have a duty of care to protect their staff from health risks, including UV radiation," says Heather Walker, chair of Cancer Council Australia's National Skin Care Cancer Committee.
"If every employer implemented a sun protection policy, according to previous research it could help prevent an estimated 200 melanomas and 34,000 other skin cancers that are diagnosed each year as the result of UV damage in the workplace.
"Whilst most people need to use sun protection only when the UV index is three or above, it is recommended that outdoor workers use sun protection year-round, even when the UV Index is below three. This is because extended exposure to UV – even at low levels – adds up over time to increase your skin cancer risk."
The guide was developed in collaboration with the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). The organisation's director of assessment and advice, Dr Rick Tinker, warns that exposure to UV radiation causes irreversible and compounding damage.
"Each year in Australia, 1.2 million Australian workers are exposed to UV radiation at levels five to 10 times higher than that of indoor workers. As a result, outdoor workers are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer."
The Cancer Council recommends all Australians follow a five S policy to protect themselves from UV radiation:
- Slip on protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
- Slop on SPF30 or higher broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen. Apply every morning as part of a morning routine and reapply every two hours.
- Slap on a broadbrim hat.
- Seek shade.
- Slide on sunglasses.
Image: Jeremy Bishop, Unsplash.com