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Why Outdoor Workers Need to be Sun Smart

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Working outdoors can keep you fit and out in the fresh air every day, but whether you’re a farmer, a fisherman or working in construction, have you considered how your job could increase your risk of skin cancer?

We know that around 95% of melanomas, considered the most dangerous skin cancer type, are attributed to overexposure to the sun’s UV radiation in Australia6. We also know that those who work outdoors can receive up to 10 times more sun exposure than those who work indoors, which increases their risk of skin damage and skin cancer[1]. Within Australia several truck drivers and labourers have been awarded compensation for skin cancer linked to their occupational sun exposure[2]. If you do work outdoors, it’s worth being particularly vigilant about checking your skin and booking regular skin cancer checks.

The goal to improve sun safety for outdoor workers

The good news is there are number of programs in place to help you minimise your sun exposure while at work outside. Workplaces are legally obligated to provide you with a safe working environment, including sun protection for outdoor roles. In return you are expected to cooperate with your workplace’s safety program, for example wearing sunglasses, hats and sun protective clothing as provided[2]. In addition, if you work in an outdoor role as approved by the Australian Taxation Office you may be able to claim a deduction for sun protective clothing[3].

What to do if your employer isn’t taking sun safety seriously

If you feel you don’t have access to adequate sun protection in your outdoor workplace, speak with your health and safety representative. They are required to provide a safe working space, so it’s in their interest as well as yours to have an official sun protection program. If you’re an employer or self-employed, read up about UPF and SPF protection and put a plan in place to minimise sun exposure for yourself and your employees. Cancer Council Australia provides clear and helpful guides for both employers and employees on effective sun protection.

Working outdoors certainly has its benefits – just make sure you slip on high-UPF clothing, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade whenever you can and slide on a pair of high-rated sunnies to minimise your risk of skin cancers. To book your regular skin cancer checks, contact your nearest SunDoctors Skin Cancer Clinic.

[1] http://www.sunsmart.com.au/skin-cancer/risk-factors#skin-types

[2] http://www.cancer.org.au/content/pdf/PreventingCancer/BeSunsmart/Skincanceroutdoorworkbooklet.pdf

[3] http://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/sun-protection-in-the-workplace.html

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