One in two outdoor workers miss out on sun protection

Health Professional Cancer Network

New Cancer Council research shows some Australian workplaces are still neglecting their duty of care and failing to protect employees from harmful UV, with around one in two workers who spend time outside missing out on sun protection.

More than 2.5 million Aussies spend half or more of their working time outdoors – but only half of those working outdoors say their workplace has a sun protection policy in place.  Estimates suggest around 34,000 non-melanoma skin cancers and 200 melanomas each year are linked to the workplace each year, so it’s vital that workplaces help employees protect themselves in the sun.

Australian workplaces have a duty of care to protect their employees for health and safety risks. Based on this latest data, many employers aren’t doing enough when it comes to UV protection.  Cancer Council’s analysis shows that male outdoor Australian workers who spend five hours or more outside are most at risk, spending on average almost two hours (1hr 56mins) more a day outdoors than their female counterparts. Outdoor workers are exposed to UV for longer periods of time throughout their working life and therefore receive significantly more UV radiation than indoor workers.

Unless employers do more now, we can expect to see a continuing increase in workplace related skin cancer cases and an increasing number of workplace compensation claims.  Employees should also take responsibility for their own health and make sure they protect themselves when working outdoors.

Cancer Council advises that sun protection for outdoor workers is important year-round because of the additional UV exposure they receive.  Providing portable shade wherever possible is also beneficial, but when outdoor work is unavoidable, providing protective clothing, sunscreen and broad brim hats are key.  Our research shows only one in two outdoor workers were provided with sunscreen, and less than one in three portable shade. Two in five outdoor workers were provided with hats.

For Australian workers, sun protection should be a tool of the trade – it’s just as important to workplace safety as shoes or high visibility clothing. Whether Australian workers are involved in building and construction, farming or outdoor retail, sun protection is vital.

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