Victorian employers urged to protect outdoor workers

Monday 18 February, 2013
  • Just 57% of Australian outdoor workers aware of sun protection policy at work
  • Employers at risk of breaking law by not protecting workers from UV radiation
  • Book a SunSmart workplace education session today

Research by Cancer Council has found many Australian workers could be at risk of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation while at work – and their employers could be at risk of breaking the law if they fail to protect them.

In Australia, it is estimated that approximately 200 melanomas and 34,000 non-melanoma skin cancers per year are due to occupational exposure to UV. Of the 3,755 employees surveyed one quarter said they spent some time outside while working. Yet just over half (57%) were aware of their employer having a UV protection policy.

"Employers don't always think about the time their workers spend outside, particularly if they are not in an industry typically associated with exposure to high levels of sunlight, such as agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction and recreation. Yet if you have employees who spend any time outdoors during working hours, for example waiting tables in a pavement café, it is your responsibility to provide adequate protection from the sun," said Jen Makin, Manager of Cancer Council Victoria's SunSmart program.

The research found that only half of employees spending time outdoors reported that their workplace provided sunscreen (52%), and less than half provided hats (45%).

"Slopping on sunscreen and slapping on a hat are important if you spend any time working outside, but they are not enough on their own. People also need protection in the form of long sleeved clothing, sunglasses and shade," said Ms Makin.

Occupational Health & Safety legislation mandates that all Victorian employers should take proper steps to reduce the known health risks associated with occupational exposure to solar UV. Between 2000 and 2009, a total of 1,360 workers' compensation claims for sun related injury/disease were made in Australia, at a total cost of $38.4 million.

Ms Makin added that while employers have a legal obligation to protect their workers, employees must also take steps to protect their own skin, whether at work or not.

To help employers fulfil their responsibilities Cancer Council Victoria offers SunSmart workplace education sessions. The one or 1.5 hour session can be delivered at your workplace or venue of choice, and covers a range of topics including how to create a SunSmart  workplace, understanding UV, prevention and early detection of skin cancer, and vitamin D.

The cost of a one hour SunSmart workplace education session is $450. To make a booking visit sunsmart.com.au or contact Emma White on (03) 9635 5148 or sunsmart@cancervic.org.au.

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