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In 2010 Safe Work Australia released its 'National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance Report: Exposure to Direct Sunlight and the Provision of Sun Exposure Controls in Australian Workplaces'. The report has been developed from the National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance survey and was written by Cancer Council Victoria. The report aimed to describe the demographic and employment characteristics of workers' who reported exposure to sunlight (UVR) and the types of exposure controls that were provided in workplaces.
Findings of the report included:
- The likelihood of being exposed to a high level of direct sunlight were higher in male workers, smaller-sized workplaces and workers in the agricultural, forestry and fishing, construction and cultural, recreational and personal services industry.
- For workers that were exposed to sunlight, the likelihood of any form of sun protection being provided were lower among workers with a university level education, workers in the property and business services industry and in the health and community services industry.
In general, the larger the workplace, the greater the likelihood of workers being provided with sunscreen, protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.
- Government administration and defence and the construction industries were associated with greater likelihood of providing workers with sunscreen, protective clothing and hats.
Workers in health and community services and education industries were less likely to have access to sunglasses, protective clothing and hats.
This is the first national study on workplace ultraviolet radiation exposure from direct sunlight across all Australian industries.
CCWA Monograph Series 2011: Skin cancer and compensation claims- costing Australian employers
A recent report by Cancer Council WA highlights how sun exposure at work is becoming increasingly recognised in the courts and the number and cost of claims is increasing over time. The report shows that total payments for skin cancer claims doubled from $2 million in 2001-02 to $4 million in 2008-09.
Occupational exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation report produced by Cancer Council Western Australia found 1,360 workers compensation claims for sun related injury or disease were made in Australia between 2000-2009, at a total cost of $38.4 million to employers. These cases firmly establish the legal recognition of sun exposure as an occupational hazard causing injury/disease and of breach of employers' duties to provide safe workplaces in this context. Are your workers aware of the real harms associated with occupational UV exposure?
Cancer Council ACT SunSmart Outdoor Workplace Program
The workplace is a major source of sun exposure for many adult Australians. It is not surprising that outdoor workers who are required to spend long periods of time working in the sun, day after day and year after year, have a higher than average risk of developing skin cancers. It has recently been estimated that 200 melanomas and 34,000 non melanoma skin cancers per year are caused by occupational UVR exposure in Australia.
Skin cancer is an Occupation Health Hazard and workplaces have a duty of care to protect their workers. Cancer Council recommends ALL outdoor workplaces have a comprehensive sun protection strategy in place that is aimed toward minimising occupational UVR exposure as much as reasonably practicable which includes educating workers who work part of or most of the day outdoors on the real dangers associated with over-exposure to solar UVR and the early detection of skin cancer. Cancer Council ACT offers the following educational and teaching resources to assist your workplace.
SunSmart Workplace Information Sessions- for outdoor workers
The SunSmart Services Coordinator from Cancer Council ACT can present a 1 hour SunSmart Information Session on site at your workplace at a time that suits you and your workers. The sessions are very informative yet kept informal and work well as a reminder to all outdoor workers to protect their skin from the sun's UVR.
Participants to the session receive take home brochures whilst the workplace manager/ WSR Officer or equivalent will receive a complimentary SunSmart Outdoor Workplace Kit (see below).
A 1 hour session includes information on:
- The case for sun protection in the workplace
- Duty of care and worker responsibilities (Work Health and Safety)
- Skin cancer in Australia
- What is Ultraviolet Radiation?
- What is skin cancer?
- The importance of early detection and prevention
- The SunSmart UV Alert
To book your outdoor workplace information session simply download and complete a SunSmart Workplace Information Session Booking Form and fax to Cancer Council ACT on 6257 5055. For more information please contact the Council on 6257 9999.
*The cost of a standard 1 hour session in $350 (inc GST). This includes hand outs for all workers, an employer's guide book, posters for your workplace, plus a 10% discount on your next workplace sunscreen purchase from the Cancer Council ACT shopfront in Fairbairn.
A reduced rate per session is also offered for multiple bookings- see booking form.
SunSmart Outdoor Workplace Kit
Workplaces may choose to purchase a SunSmart Outdoor Workplace Kit to assist them with their sun protection policy and behaviour. The kit cost just $39.95 (includes postage (extra costs may be involved for organisations and businesses with over 50 workers). The Kit includes take home brochures for each worker, a comprehensive employer's handbook, a 'Be SunSmart today from' sign to display in your workplace, information sheets and position statements plus posters for your workplace.
Contact Cancer Council ACT on 6257 9999 to purchase your Kit today or click on the image to the right to email your request on-line.
Workplace medical checks and skin cancer
Cancer Council ACT does not operate, recommend or endorse any skin check services or clinics. If your workplace wants to provide a skin check service for its workers, it is important to ensure the medical practitioner conducting the skin checks has expertise and training in the area of skin cancer.
Remember, all outdoor workers should be encouraged, and provided with information, to examine their own skin, whether they attend a workplace skin cancer check or not. All workers should also be educated in skin cancer prevention.
Other Links of interest
The new Work Health and Safety Act 2011 took effect as of 1 January 2012. For more information on the new Work Safety Act 2008 or to download current and past ORS E-News Bulletins visit the Office of Regulatory Services website or contact them on (02) 6205 0200. For more information on the Act or OH&S matters visit the WorkSafe ACT website. View WorkSafe ACT's Sunsafe Guide to Working Outdoors (2011).
The Radiation Protection Standard for Occupational Exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation (2006) published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), contains guidelines for both employers and employees for minimising worker’s exposure to solar UVR.
Does your job require you to work in the sun? If yes, you may be able to claim a tax deduction. Contact The Australian Taxation Office or ring 13 2861 (for employees) or 13 2866 (for businesses). [NAT 7041-6.2002]
For more information download Cancer Council's Position Statement Sun Protection in the Workplace or contact Cancer Council ACT on 6257 9999. Workplaces can also download a sample workplace sun protection policy to assist them in the development of a comprehensive and effective policy that aims to protect workers as much practicably possible from over-exposure to UVR.
Visit the Safe Work Australia website to view a Guidence Note for the Protection of Workers from the Ultraviolet Radiation in Sunlight (NOV- 2008).