Construction workers

UV doesn't take a holiday – sun protection is not just for summer

UV is a constant companion on the work site. Use sun protection each day when working outdoors.

The Australian Workplace Exposure Study: Carcinogen Exposures in the Construction Industry conducted by Safe Work Australia, found just 8% of outdoor construction workers were considered to be adequately protected from UV.


Lachie's story

“I’d been sunburnt from being a bit careless in the sun at work before; but this one took me by surprise.”

Read Lachie's story


UV protection tips for construction workers

  • Consider different UV reflective surfaces around the workplace.
  • Where possible modify reflective surfaces or move work away from these surfaces.
  • Plan work so that outdoor tasks are scheduled earlier in the morning or later in the day outside of peak UV periods.
  • Take breaks indoors or in the shade.
  • Move jobs indoors or into shaded areas when possible.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades the face, neck and ears or a construction helmet with brim attachment.
  • Wear a loose-fitting shirt with longer sleeves and a collar, made from UFP50+ material. Choose one made from breathable fabric (e.g. cotton) to allow good ventilation.
  • Wear loose-fitting long trousers made from UFP50+ material. Choose a breathable fabric (e.g. cotton) to allow good ventilation.
  • Apply SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if perspiring. Try a non-greasy formula so you can keep a grip on the tools. Also consider applying SPF30 (or higher) lip balm.
  • Keep sunscreen in your lunch cooler so it is stored below 30 degrees. It will also be cool to apply on hot days. Keep a watch on the expiry date.
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses (AS/NZS 1067 or with an EPF of 9 or 10) or safety glasses (AS/NZS 1337.1:2010).

Construction workers not only receive UV directly from the sun but it is also reflected off different surfaces increasing their overall UV exposure.

Surface UV reflectance (%) Surface UV reflectance (%)
Soil, clay 4 –6% Polycarbonate hollow sheet 8.46%
White sandy soil 9.1% Red brick  4.5 –7%
Concrete: new/wet/pebble tile/tile 7 –22% White paint – metal oxide 17.5 –22%
Ceramic tile: porcelain/stoneware/vitrified mosaic 11 –33% House paint – white 22%
Shiny corrugated iron 18 –30% Natural clear wood 2.6 –5.2%
Aluminium-weathered 13 –75% Asphalt/bitumen, new (black)/old (grey) 4.1 –8.9%
Unpainted galvanised tin 29.3% Tar sealed road 6%

Source: Sliney 1986; Turner, Parisi 2018

Book a UV safety training session for your workplace

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Do your workers know how to protect themselves from UV and lower their risk of skin cancer? SunSmart's trained educators deliver training sessions that highlight the harms associated with UV exposure and ways to reduce risk.


Peter's story

“No one is immune to skin cancer so cover up and get checked regularly.”

Read Peter's story


Scott's story

“The bottom line is these simple measures may just prevent you having to go through the year I have.”

Read Scott's story

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