Outdoor workers exposed to skin cancer risk on the job

Monday 6 June, 2016

Fewer than 10% of construction, agriculture workers protected from UV

Employers in the construction and agriculture industries may be at risk of neglecting their legal responsibilities by failing to protect workers from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, as highlighted by a new study.

The Australian Workplace Exposure Study conducted by Safe Work Australia, examined carcinogens in the construction and agriculture industries.iii It found workers in each industry had inadequate protection against the sun’s UV radiation, despite it being the most common cancer risk to which they were exposed.

In the construction industry, 86% of workers were exposed to UV radiation, but just 7% were adequately protected. In agriculture, 99% of workers were exposed to UV radiation, yet only 10% were considered to be adequately protected with the use of shade, clothing, a hat and sunscreen.

SunSmart Manager Heather Walker said the lack of protection for outdoor workers was alarming.

“These findings should worry employers and health and safety representatives across the construction and agriculture industries,” Ms Walker said.

“Employers may not realise just how much UV radiation their employees are being exposed to, and just providing a protective uniform may not be enough in terms of managing risk.

“People who work outdoors need year-round sun protection that includes clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, sunscreen and eye protection, as well as control measures like shade to reduce their amount of UV exposure.”

Ms Walker said both employers and their workers need more education on the impact of UV damage, their responsibilities in managing it as a hazard, and what is good UV protection policy and practice.

It’s estimated that at least 200 melanoma and 34,000 other skin cancers diagnosed in Australia each year, are the result of UV exposure in the workplace.

“It is also important that employers remember they have a legal obligation under Victorian occupational health and safety legislation to provide a safe working environment.

”Without adequate protection in place, UV radiation is a risk that can cost your business – and the health of your workers.”

SunSmart offers support, training and advice to workplaces on UV risk assessments, policy and control measures.

For more information visit sunsmart.com.au/work

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