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Prevention is better than cure – reduce your skin cancer risk

Skin cancer is serious business – 2,000 people a year die from skin cancer in Australia! The good news is that skin cancer is almost totally preventable if you protect yourself at all times when working outdoors.

What is your individual responsibility?

It is your responsibility to cover up when you’re in the sun. It should not be up to the boss to tell you to put your hat on. Sun protection means:

SunSmart icons

Slip on sun protective clothing – cover as much of your skin as possible. Choose long pants and long sleeved collared shirts.

Slop on SPF30 or higher broad spectrum sunscreen – the last line of defence for parts of the body which cannot be covered any other way. Remember to reapply at least every 2 hours.

Slap on a broad-brimmed hat, not a cap – brim attachments are available for hard hats or helmets.

Seek shade – reduce your exposure to the sun with shade whenever possible, especially during breaks.

Slide on some sunglasses – close fitting, wrap-around styles are best.

Find out when the UV Index is 3 or higher

Download the free SunSmart app to receive automatic notifications when the UV Index reaches 3 or above in your area because  even though outdoor workers should use protection whenever they are outdoors, it is good to understand the UV index and that the higher the number, then much greater the intensity.  When the level is really high, then consider using lots of different types of protection or even planning your working day so you are inside when it is at its most extreme. Find out more about the UV Index.

What about the cost?

Sun protective clothing and other protective items such as sunscreen and sunglasses which are bought to be used at work are tax deductable. Visit the ATO website for more information.

For more information about how you can protect yourself from overexposure to UV radiation have a read of Cancer Council’s Skin cancer and outdoor work: a work health and safety guide.

Are you responsible for others?

Employers, site supervisors or principal contractors/builders have a duty of care to protect subcontractors or employees on their building and construction site from overexposure to UV radiation.

Image courtesy of QLD Health

Image courtesy of QLD Health

Use a combined approach including guidelines and policy, worker education and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and clothing to substantially reduce the risk of skin cancer on building and construction sites.

Elements of a comprehensive sun protection program include:

Risk assessment – periodically assess workers exposure to UV radiation

Sun protection policy – outline in a written policy the sun protection control measures and penalties for non-compliance

Sun protection control measures

Engineering – the provision of shade, window tinting or driving sleeves

Administration – consider changes to schedules if possible, including rostering tasks outside of peak UV times and rotate people engaged in outdoor work

PPE and clothing – including long pants, shirts, broad-brimmed hats, sunglasses and 30SPF or higher sunscreen

Training to work safely in the sun – provide workers with information, training and guidance on SunSmart behaviours

Role models – management and supervisors to act as positive role models

For more general information about why and how you can protect yourself and your workers from overexposure to UV radiation have a read of .

Return to Exposure at work

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UV observation courtesy of ARPANSA

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