Workers urged to take care to avoid skin cancer risk

Thursday, 29 January, 2009

WorkSafe has advised workers — particularly those who work outside on a regular basis — to take care to avoid the risk of skin cancer.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne said that all precautions should be taken by those who cannot avoid exposure to the sun in the course of their work: “Australians have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world with one skin cancer treated every one and a half minutes.

“Around 1600 Australians die each year from skin cancer and although more than 95% of skin cancers can be cured if detected and treated early enough, it is far better to prevent them by protecting the skin from the sun.

“People whose jobs involve a lot of time in the sun are at high risk of developing skin cancers and employers have a responsibility for minimising hazards in the workplace.”

Under occupational safety and health laws, employers have a duty of care to provide systems of work, information, training and personal protective clothing and equipment so employees are not exposed to hazards.

In consultation with safety and health representatives and employees, employers should identify any sun exposure hazards and introduce control measures to reduce exposure.

Personal protective equipment should be supplied and used to protect workers from sun exposure. This could include long sleeves and trousers, enclosed footwear, wide-brimmed hats or hats with neck flaps, wraparound-style sunglasses and broad-spectrum sunscreen.

Sunscreen should be layered on thickly to clean, dry skin and renewed every two hours — more frequently if a worker is sweating profusely. Where sunscreen and eye protection is used, they should comply with the relevant Australian Standard.

Employees also have a duty of care to themselves and others in the workplace and must comply with instructions and use the protective clothing and equipment provided. They should refrain from rolling up their shirt sleeves and/or removing a hat while outdoors.

“Employers can also help out by rotating workers’ tasks where possible so their time in the sun is minimised,” Lyhne added.

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