Now that the warmer weather is upon us and we are beginning to feel the heat, it is important to take extra precautions when working outdoors. According to Cancer Council Australia, outdoor workers receive up to 10 times more exposure to UV radiation than indoor workers. Furthermore, approximately 200 melanomas and 34,000 non-melanoma skin cancers per year are caused by occupational exposures in Australia. As a result, outdoor workers are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer.
Under OHS legislation, employers have a duty of care to protect all workers including casual and contracted employees from UV damage. As an employee, you also have a duty of care to your own health and safety and are required to cooperate with your employer’s efforts to improve workplace safety.
If you are an outdoor worker, here are some handy tips to help you stay sun safe this summer:
Based on results of a poll conducted by SC Johnson Professional, three-quarters of outdoor workers do not wear sunscreen citing it as too much of an effort to do so. Applying sunscreen may seem like a tedious task but it can be lifesaving. When buying a sunscreen, choose one with a SPF30 (or higher), broad spectrum and water-resistant properties. There are sunscreens available specifically for outdoor work that will not leave marks on equipment. Furthermore, did you know that tax deductions are available for sun protection products if you are an outdoor worker? With all these benefits, there is simply no excuse to not to wear sunscreen. A few things to note:
- Apply a generous amount of sunscreen 20 minutes before work and reapply every two hours.
- Sunscreen should be stores in a cool place (below 30°C)
WEAR CORRECT PPE
When working outdoors, the best thing to wear is clothing that covers as much skin as possible. We recommend wearing long pants and collared, long-sleeved shirts that are made from a material with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 50+. You should also wear a broad brimmed or legionnaire-style hat that provides shade to your face, head, ears and neck. This should also be made from a UPF50+ material. To protect your eyes, wear sunglasses that have a close-fitting, wrap-around style and have an eye protection factor of 9 or 10 or meet Australian Standards (AS/NZS 1067:2003).
We cannot stress enough the importance of this tip. Seek shade during breaks or where possible, move outdoor tasks to a shady spot especially during the middle of the day when UV radiation is strongest. If your work timings are flexible, plan to work early in the morning or later in the afternoon when UV radiation levels are lower.
HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
It goes without saying that drinking water is extremely important. As you sweat throughout the day, you need to drink more and more water to keep yourself hydrated. Avoid drinking energy drinks and coffees because they are not water replacements.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Did you know that your body communicates with you throughout the day? When working outdoors, watch out for symptoms such as excessive sweating, rapid pulse, dizziness, muscle cramps and headaches which are warning signs of something bigger to come.
Last but not the least, we want to stress the importance of looking out for skin cancer. Here’s how to check your skin:
- Check your whole body, including the soles of your feet, between your toes, armpits, ears, eyelids, under your fingernails and scalp.
- Use a hand-held mirror or have someone help you to check areas of your body that you cannot see such as your back and the back of your neck and legs.
- Look for a new spot or a spot that is different from the ones around it.
- Look for a sore that does not heal
- Look for a spot or mole that has changed in size, shape or colour
Visit your GP as soon as you notice anything unusual. Skin cancer can be successfully treated if found early but it can be fatal if left untreated.
Remember to use these tips if you are working outdoors this summer. Be SunSmart.