UV radiation in sunlight is the cause of majority of all skin cancers in Australia, a nation which has the highest incidence of the disease in the world.
An estimated two out of three Australians are likely to develop skin cancer before the age of 70.
Harsh UV rays in sunlight on a hot sunny day, and sometimes even on overcast and cooler days, can cause skin to burn in just 12 minutes.
According to The Bureau of Meteorology, UV radiation in Australia is at its peak during the hot summer months, typically very high to extreme. Outdoor workers are at the highest risk of sun damage as they can spend several hours a day working under the sun.
As always prevention of exposure to risk is the best possible solution, for example scheduling work to avoid highest UV exposure times of the day, or conducting work indoors when possible.
Barring prevention, employers can engineer solutions like kiosks or awnings and build shelters that provide shade, allowing workers to stay cool and take frequent breaks.
Often however high UV exposure without shade is unavoidable and in such cases barriers between the skin and UV rays are considered some of the most effective control measures.
PPE barriers offering shade, like a wide brim hat to cover face neck and ears, are among the standard protective measures recommended by the Skin Cancer Council, and the Department of Health. However, hard hats are mandatory and are often the only allowed head protection for many outdoor and hazardous work sites.
Incorporating sun protection into existing PPE such as prescribed hard hats is important for both employers and workers. Safe Work Australia recommends wide brims that fit onto hard hats extending over 7cms with a UV protection factor of 50+, which also offer coverage for neck and ears but don't compromise on safety, as the ideal solution.
Brims with 6660 brims, like the Ergodyne Chill from industrial safety products specialist Pryme, are designed to fit easily over any hard hat size and design, even those with attached hearing protection. This allows employers to complement their existing PPE quickly and cost-effectively.
Polyester UV +50 treated fabric, extends over the neck and ear for full coverage, and bright hi-vis lime and orange colours offer superior visibility.
Effective risk assessments and control measures help to reduce the risk of exposure for workers and can help control a largely preventable disease like skin cancer.