Skin cancer in Australia account for the highest rates in the world; with outdoor workers amongst the highest risk group. While there have been improvements over the years, many workplaces are still failing to protect their workers from sun damage. According to the 2016 SHARC Report, there has been a growing trend with Australians in considering skin conditions when choosing an occupation- “31%, up from 27% last year and 19% the year before.” This same report surveyed Australians and found that 55% were employed in jobs that sometimes, regularly or always require them to be outdoors, yet 52% did not provide sunscreen, 65% did not provide protective clothing, 74% do not provide sunglasses and 75% did not provide gloves.
Safe Work Australia reported in 2010 that outdoors workers “generally receive 5 to 10 times more UVR exposure per year than indoor workers.” The damage inflected is permanent and irreversible and only increases with each exposure. Bellow charts the percentage of workers exposed to direct sunlight by industry:
This issue goes beyond just supplying employees with sunscreen. It requires ongoing workplace education and equipping workers with tools to protect themselves; whether this be protective clothing, a wide brimmed hat, or proper sunglasses. While workers do have to take responsibility for their individual well-being, employers must have an obligation as well to provide their staff protection from the sun. A Queensland study of 401 outdoor construction workers found that over 97% of workers exceeded the 8 hour limit of sun exposure and only 10% were appropriately protected by sun preventive measures.
How does this affect your business?
Between 2000 and 2009 there were 1,360 workers’ compensation claims for sun related injury/disease. This costs business nearly $38.5 million for the total cost of sun related claims made during this period. $12,000 was the average payout for these sun related claims. Additionally this adversely affects business reputation, safety records and zero injury goals, employee’s productivity, and workplace morale.
Take note because it is not difficult for employees to prove injury was caused at worksite. Section 32(1) of the Workers’ Compensation And Rehabilitation Act of 2003 states that if a worker sustains an injury where work is a significant contributing factor, then the statutory claim is on for acceptance. Keep in mind the numbers listed above describing work place sun exposure by industry. Work only has to amount to a significant contributing factor of the injury.
Additionally the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 2000, states that you have a duty of care towards your employees. It is also your responsibility to take preventive measures to ensure your workers are protected from the sun’s UV rays.
The facts may be discouraging, but there are a number of methods you can take today to prevent skin cancer from spreading in your business. To learn more go here or check out our page titled Prevention on our website.