The majority of farm work is conducted outside, meaning that farmers, throughout their lives, have increased cumulative exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation compared with the average person.
“Cumulative exposure is lifelong exposure to UV radiation, which explains why people get skin cancer when they’re older,” said Liz King, the Skin Cancer Prevention Manager at Cancer Council NSW.
“The fact of the matter is that almost all skin cancers – about 95% of melanomas and about 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers – are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation” Liz warns.
Employers have a duty of care to protect both themselves and their workers from the effects of UV radiation as it’s a known carcinogen. Appropriate sun protection measures must be provided in a safe working environment, as well as ongoing education that promotes personal responsibility for skin cancer prevention.
When UV levels are at 3 or above it’s important for outdoor workers to use a combination of sun protection measures including protective clothing and a broad brimmed hat. These are two of the most effective ways that farmers can reduce their cumulative UV exposure.
SafeWork NSW offers farmers a small business safety rebate of $500 to help buy and install eligible safety items that address a safety problem in the workplace. There are a wide range of items eligible for purchase under SafeWork NSW small business safety rebate, including sun shade protection for rural and outdoor work areas.
Viv Miller a cattle farmer from Wallarobba, approximately 70km north of Newcastle, knows the dangers of the sun after having numerous close calls with melanoma during her life. Listen to Viv’s story about how she used a SafeWork NSW rebate to install a cover above their crush to provide shade and protection from the intense heat and UV radiation.
Beyond installing sun safe infrastructure on your farm, Liz says it’s just as important to get in to good habits such as, “being proactive to reapply sunscreen every two hours.”
“Skin cancer prevention isn’t about stopping people from working outdoors, it’s about having a plan to protect your skin,” continues Liz, “The Australian sun is harsh, but we want to encourage farmers to create new habits to reduce their cancer risk and look out for their co-workers too.”
To help reduce your employees’ exposure to the sun, here are some of the Cancer Council’s outdoor worker policies for your workplace:
Cancer Council’s skin cancer and outdoor work: A guide for employers – this is a great resource for employers to find out everything you need to know about sun protection in the workplace.
Sun Protection Policy for outdoor workers – use this downloadable document as a guide to model your own Sun Protection Policy.
UV risk control worksheet for outdoor work – use this worksheet to assess the risk of UV exposure in your working environment.