Cancer Council Australia

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Sun protection in the workplace

UV radiation is a known carcinogen. It is also the major cause of skin cancer in Australia and represents a major workplace hazard to employees who spend some, or all, of their working day outdoors.

Outdoor workers:

  • are exposed to sun for extended periods of time throughout their working life.
  • receive significantly more UV radiation than people who work indoors.
  • have a higher than average risk of developing common skin cancers.

The Radiation Protection Standard for Occupational Exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation (2006), published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), contains guidelines for both employers and employees for minimising workers’ exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Duty of care

State Occupational Health and Safety Acts require employers to provide and maintain safe working environments. Employers must ensure their employees can work safely and without risk to their health - this includes exposure to UV radiation. In turn, employees have a responsibility for their own safety and health and must follow UV protection policies and use sun protective measures provided.

Cooperation between employers and employees can help minimise UV exposure in the workplace, this may include:

  • reducing the amount of time outdoor workers spend in the sun.
  • providing and maintaining equipment needed to protect workers from the sun.
  • information, instruction, training and supervision to reduce UV exposure.

More information about sunsmart workplaces is available in Cancer Council's position statement on sun protection in the workplace.

Your state or territory Cancer Council can assist your organisation in meeting its duty of care by providing a range of professional services and resources for your workplace. These include ‘fee for service’ education workshops and advice on developing and implementing a sun protection plan in your workplace.

Workplace guides to skin cancer prevention

Outdoor workers can be at particularly high risk of skin cancer. Cancer Council provides a number of resources designed to reduce the risk of skin cancer in the workplace:

Tax deductions for personal protective equipment (PPE)

Since 2002 workers in a wide range of outdoor occupations have been able to claim the cost of sunglasses, hats and sunscreen as a tax deduction. This is because wearing sun protective clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen and hats is no different from wearing safety boots, hard hats or gloves to reduce workplace injury. For more information visit the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website.

National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance - Sunlight Report

Cancer Council Victoria in conjunction with Safe Work Australia recently released the National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance Report: Exposure to Direct Sunlight and the Provision of Sun Exposure Controls in Australian Workplaces report.

In the first national study of workplace radiation exposure across industies, occupations and demographics, the report studies Australian workers exposure to direct sunlight and the measures employers take to eliminate, reduce or control worker's exposure to sunlight.

This page was last updated on: Wednesday, April 15, 2015