Workplaces and sun protection
Outdoor workers are at greater risk of developing skin cancer than indoor workers because they’re exposed to five to 10 times more ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Almost all skin cancers are caused by UV radiation, so the good news is they are highly preventable. Outdoor workers need sun protection every day, yet 90% are currently working without full sun protection. And in NSW, 25% of workplaces do not provide workers with any sun protection at all.
According to the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011, workplaces must provide a safe working environment for employees, which includes protection from UV related harm. Employers and employees can be prosecuted if they don’t comply.
Not protecting workers also comes at a financial cost. According to SafeWork NSW, between 2006/07 – 2016/17, workers compensation claims for skin cancer cost $12.5 million in NSW alone.
Sun protection guidance for workplaces
Sun safety is serious, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Workplaces can meet their legal requirements to protect their workers’ health by implementing a sun protection program that includes:
- proactive leaders who champion sun safety
- a sun protection policy
- simple protective measures
- training, information and resources.
Long term, you will be contributing to a workplace safety culture that avoids incidents and injuries, improves workplace efficiency and builds staff retention.
Cancer Council NSW has developed a practical Champion’s Implementation Guide to support workplaces in improving their sun safety culture.
The guide complements our more comprehensive Skin cancer and outdoor work. A work and safety guide, which provides WH&S representatives with information and advice to understand the importance of sun protection policies and practices in the workplace.
Gaining buy-in from senior management and WHS teams will help ensure sun safety is prioritised, supported and demonstrated from above. This is a key factor for success for any workplace health program. Make your case by using Cancer Council NSW sun safety resources and collecting local data from your workplace. Be clear that you are serious about good sun protection. Seek out any organisational information that will support your case, such as examples of where improvements could be made. Promote your workplace’s WHS duty of care and legal obligations, and remind management of the WHS benefits.
Form a small working party or get on the safety agenda that suits your business. Seek influential, interested people who can lead, develop and guide sun safety implementation in your workplace.
Use the UV Risk Assessment template to identify:
- Where the greatest risk of UV radiation is in your workplace.
- What sun safety control measures are being used, to prioritise areas for improvement.
Consult with a cross section of workers to learn about their needs, opinions and attitudes. Use these insights to develop your sun safety plan.
Prioritise the sun safety areas you will focus on and use the Action Plan template to develop your sun safety plan. Things to consider:
- Where appropriate, make it mandatory not optional: evidence shows that employees experience less sun damage when sun safety is mandatory in their workplace.
- Try to do the most protective actions first: in line with the hierarchy of controls, consider doing actions with a higher level of health and safety protection first, such as once-off engineering controls like tinted windows and shade availability.
- Tailor to your needs: every workplace is different, find a balance that meets your workers’ health and safety needs and your budget, that you can commit to.
- Take an all-around approach: when you tackle sun safety from a variety of angles you get the best outcome. Use the Action Plan to identify as many measures as possible that will suit your workplace.
- Talk up achievements: success builds a strong case for your workplace’s continuing commitment to sun safety. Try to find ‘easy wins’ that you can achieve and talk up early on to help build this momentum.
Talk your plan through with your management team, WHS committee and staff, and seek final feedback and support. Agree how to imbed it in everyday practices and procedures, and how to communicate it. Gain buy-in at all levels before you proceed.
Officially launch your sun safety plan. Clearly communicate what changes will occur and what you expect from all staff. Use posters, newsletters, your staff intranet, meetings and demonstrations of PPE to publicise the plan as widely and frequently as possible. ‘The SunSmart App is a useful way of showing staff daily UV forecasts for your workplace’s local area.
Monitoring is critical: it allows you to see whether you’re on track and keep momentum. Documenting the process will provide valuable information to review your progress and identify possible reasons for successes or failures:
- Keep a written record of what has been undertaken.
- Note the results of all actions and procedures.
- Arrange working party meetings, seek out feedback from staff.
Look at what worked and think about what factors contributed to its success. Apply those learnings to any areas that you can see need improving and then think about what you can and should do next.
How Australia Post improved their sun safe practices
Learn how Australia Post implemented practical changes to better protect their workers.Read more
Download our resources to help you implement sun safety in your workplace. You can order printed copies for free by completing our order form.
Guides and templates
- Skin cancer and outdoor work. A work health and safety guide
Our guide provides WH&S representatives and leaders with information and advice to understand the importance of sun safety policies and practice in the workplace.
- Champion’s Implementation Guide
Apractical step by step guide to support workplaces champions improve their sun safey culture.
- UV Risk Assessment Template
Workplace champions can use this template to assess their workplace’s UV risk, current sun safety practices and identify priority areas for improvement.
- Action Plan template
After completing the UV Risk Assessment, use this template to identify the actions from the priority areas you want your workplace to adopt.
- Sun safety policy template
Cancer Council has developed a Sun Safety policy template that your workplace can adopt if you need to develop or update an existing policy.
Brochures for employees
- Work outdoors? Use UV protection everyday
A brochure explaining how outdoor workers can protect their skin at work.
- Can you spot a skin cancer?
An A5 flyer or A3 poster providing descriptions of danger and warning signs for skin cancer and encouraging people to get to know their own skin.
Education and training
- Sun Safety Toolbox Talk
A template workplaces can use to talk to their staff about the importance of sun safety in the workplace
- Sun Safety Quiz
Quick questions covering information included in the accompanying toolbox talk to assess your staff’s understanding of UV radiation as a workplace hazard
- Managing Outdoor Workers Webinar
SafeWork NSW and Cancer Council NSW talk about the risks that workers are exposed to when working outdoors, and how employers can manage these risks. Small businesses who watch this webinar may be eligible to receive a small business rebate of up to the value of $1000.
- Checked your skin lately?
A3 poster reminding your workers to get to know their own skin and visit their GP if they notice any changes.
- Work outdoors? Use UV protection everyday
A3 posters for different professions reminding your workers to use sun protection everyday when at work.
SunSmart UV alert app
Our free SunSmart app and UV alert widget gives you daily UV forecasts for your workplace’s local area in NSW.
You can claim tax deductions for sun protection products such as sunscreen, hats and sunglasses if you are required to work outside. Read more on the Australian Taxation Office website.
Did you know that implementing effective sun protection measures can also help to reduce your workers’ risk of heat stress. To learn more about managing extreme heat, go to SafeWork NSW.