Skin Cancer and other sun damage

Australians have the highest skin cancer rates in the world. Each year there are about 140,000 new cases and 700 people die from melanoma.

Skin cancers are mainly caused by over exposure to the sun. There are several types such as squamous cell carcinomas, basal cell carcinomas and melanoma. Most skin cancers can be prevented by protecting the skin from the sun. Nearly all can be cured if detected and treated early enough.

Long term exposure to solar UV radiation can damage the eyes and result in cataracts and other problems. it can also prematurely age skin.

Personal protection.

Long sleeve shirts and trousers and a wide brimmed hat should be worn at all times when working in sunny conditions. Using blockout alone is not enough to protect you. Caps should not be worn in full sun situations as they do not provide adequate protection.

Sunscreens labelled SPF30, or 30+ used on all exposed skin offer maximum protection and are recommended by medical authorities. Sun screen should not be used as the primary protection mechanism for UV radiation exposure. Read the instructions and re-apply as directed.

Cloud cover may reduce UV exposure but will not stop it altogether. Use PPE & sun screen even on cloudy days.

Whenever practicable avoid working outdoors when the sun is most intense, ie between 10.00 am and 2.00 pm (11.00 am – 3.00 pm during daylight saving). Work in the shade whenever practicable.  Remember that shade will only reduce exposure to solar radiation, not stop it altogether.

Ordinary glasses cut down UV radiation considerably. There is value in keeping vehicle windows up when driving for long periods.

Wear high UV screening capacity (over 95%), wrap-round sunglasses whenever working outdoors to protect your eyes.

More Information

Guidance Note for the Protection of Workers from Ultraviolet Radiation in Sunlight, ASCC

Workcover Skin cancer and outdoor workers guide for employers 1998