Outdoor workers have been found to receive more than 5 to 10 times the amount of ultraviolet exposure when compared to their counterparts who toil indoors. With this daily exposure to the sun comes a significant skin cancer risk for employees working outdoors.
Under Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia, it mandates that employers have a duty of care to protect their employees from illness and injury. For outdoor workers, this includes protecting against exposure to the sun that can lead to skin cancer and melanomas. Here are some proven strategies employers can implement to protect staff from developing skin cancer when on the job.
Training Workers on Sun Safety
First and foremost it is important employers communicate the health risks to employees who work outdoors and ways these can be reduced through regular workplace training and refresher courses held by experts from local skin safe clinics. Other training sessions could focus on addressing myths about solar radiation, helping employees identify the early signs of skin cancer and ensuring all staff are aware of the official workplace policy regarding sun protection.
It's important to raise awareness about the importance of sun protection by management setting a consistent example and championing a sun safe attitude. This will help to reduce the risk of skin cancer on and off the job, and help protect the health and safety of a business's workforce.
Protective clothing provides a barrier against UV light and is one of the best ways to limit direct sun exposure. It's important that businesses employing outdoor workers have a clear policy around the compulsory wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) including sun protective gear. It's important options are chosen that balance protection against being able to stay cool and do not interfere with the duties of the job. The most effective option can include long sleeve shirts, sunglasses with polarised lenses to reduce glare, hats and SPF 30+ sunscreen on exposed skin.
Provide Shade Where Possible
For many tasks that are performed outdoors, businesses should investigate whether permanent or temporary shading can be erected. There are a number of portable options, including gazebos and tarpaulins, as well as relocating work to areas where there is existing shade. This could be areas where there is vegetation and shade from other buildings. Shade should still be no substitute for employees wearing sun protective equipment.
Reschedule Outdoor Tasks Outside of 10-3pm
Managers can reduce their employees exposure to UV radiation during the most damaging hours of the day (between 10am-3pm) by rescheduling tasks to earlier or later in the day. This will also have the added benefit of being a cooler environment to work in and will especially be appreciated during the summer months. This may mean implementing earlier or later start times or rotating employees so the same teams are not always in the sun.
The truth is that outdoor workers have a heightened risk of contracting skin cancer as a work related condition. Because of this fact, it is essential employers recognise their role in helping to protect their staff by implementing sun safe policies and raise awareness about the importance of sun safety. Doing so will reduce the instances of work related skin cancer, keep staff productive and healthy and safeguard employers against duty of care litigation. For more information, contact a business such as Sun Patrol Skin Cancer Clinic Pty Ltd.