“It is estimated that approximately 200 melanomas and 34,000 non-melanoma skin cancers per year are caused by occupational exposures in Australia”.
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Despite being almost entirely preventable, skin cancer continues to affect at least two in every three Australians in their lifetime. The amount of exposure required to cause skin cancer varies greatly from one person to another. However, in most people the risk of skin cancer increases with increasing amounts of exposure to the sun.
The workplace is a major source of exposure for many adult Australians. It is not surprising that outdoor workers who are required to spend long periods of time working in the sun, year after year, have a higher than average risk of skin cancer.
All skin types can be damaged by exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Damage is permanent and irreversible and increases with each exposure.
Under Australian occupational health and safety legislation, employers should be considering steps to reduce this risk and protect employees from ongoing exposure to solar UVR that can lead to skin cancer.
Implementing a comprehensive sun protection program, which includes a range of simple protective measures, can prevent sun-related injuries and reduce the suffering and costs associated with skin cancer – including reduced productivity, morale and financial returns.
Occupations especially at risk due to the outdoor nature of the work include:
- Building and construction workers.
- Telecommunications and utilities workers.
- Swimming pool and beach lifeguards.
- Police and traffic officers.
- Landscape and gardening workers.
- Fisheries workers.
- Agricultural, farming and horticultural workers.
- Road workers.
- Municipal employees.
- Postal workers.
- Dockyard, port and harbour workers.
- Catering workers.
- Professional sports athletes.
- Physical education teachers and outdoor sports coaches.
- Forestry and logging workers.
- Ski instructors and lift operators.
- Mining and earth resources workers.
- Outdoor events workers.
- Labour hire company workers.
- Taxi, bus and truck drivers and delivery and courier services.