Skin cancer costs Victorian workplaces more than $6.2 million over 10 years

Thursday 2 October, 2014

SunSmart is urging workplaces in Victoria to protect their employees from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation (UV) or risk paying increased premiums.

New figures reveal the Victorian WorkCover Authority received 107 claims for skin cancers between 2003 and 2013, costing workplaces more than $6.2 million in compensation, common law damages and impairment benefits.

It is estimated that around 200 melanomas and 34,000 non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia are caused by occupational exposures to UV every year(i).  

“Outdoor workers are at an increased risk of skin damage and skin cancer because of the amount of time they spend outdoors during peak UV times,” SunSmart Manager Sue Heward said.

“Although 95 per cent of Australian outdoor workers currently use some form of sun protection, just nine per cent are considered to be fully protected from UV(ii).  This is a serious health risk for workers, and − as these new figures show − for the commercial health of Victorian businesses.”

In Victoria, Occupational Health and Safety legislation mandates that all employers should take steps to reduce the known health risks with occupational exposure to UV from the sun.

To help employers fulfil their responsibilities, Cancer Council Victoria offers SunSmart workplace education sessions that can be delivered at your workplace or venue of your choice in Victoria. The interactive group sessions cover a range of topics, including: how to create a SunSmart workplace; understanding UV; prevention and early detection of skin cancer and vitamin D.

SunSmart can help workplaces reduce the risk of costly lawsuits in the future and improve their role in protecting workers through steps such as:

  • rescheduling work to minimise time spent outdoors in peak UV periods
  • sharing outdoor tasks to minimise individual workers’ being overexposed to UV
  • providing UV-protective clothing, sunglasses, hats and sunscreen
  • making shade available
  • having a UV policy.

The cost of a one-hour SunSmart Workplace Education Program session is $500. Sessions held outside the Melbourne metropolitan area incur additional charges. SunSmart also offers additional free resources for workplaces which include information sheets and brochures on how to protect employees from UV radiation from the sun.

For more information or to book a Workplace Education session email

[i] Fritschi L, Driscoll T. Cancer due to occupation in Australia. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2006; 30(3): 213-9.

[ii] Carey RN, Glass DC, Peters S, Reid A, Benke G, Driscoll TR, Fritschi L. Occupational exposure to solar radiation in Australia: who is exposed and what protection do they use? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2014; 38(1): 54-9.