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More attention needed on sun safety

Employers and employees both need to adopt much more comprehensive defences against sun damage, as new research has found that both are applying piecemeal approaches to protecting workers’ skin.


Associate Professor Chris Baker, immediate past president of the foundation, said that it was crucial employers took a comprehensive approach to the prevention of sun damage to their employees who work outside.


“As with all workplace health and safety issues, it is prudent to adopt a risk management approach – with the objective of minimising the risk of sun damage in the workplace.


“That means employers having thought about necessary sun protection measures and having them available to the workers.”


Associate Professor Baker, who is also the president of the Australian College of Dermatologists, said that sun safety is a common concern between employers and the employees themselves.


“Workers also need to take on responsibility for their skin health. If working outside in the sun is part of your role, you need to discuss with your employer provision of appropriate protection.


“Ultimately, it’s your skin and your health. We must all take necessary steps to ensure sun protection at work and during leisure.”


The report also revealed a tendency among a sizable number of Australians for a skin condition to influence their choice of occupation, as 31 per cent chose their occupation based on an issue related to a skin condition (a figure higher than last year’s response of 27 per cent which was much higher than the previous year’s response of 19 per cent).


“Employers need to be aware of how important skin health is to Australians. They also need to know that skin health of their employees influences productivity and their bottom line,” said Baker.


Eleven per cent of respondents had to miss work in the last 12 months because of a skin condition, according to Baker, who said this translates to more than two million Australians.


“Thirty per cent of those, or over 600,000 people, missed six to ten days because of a skin condition,” he said.


“The economic and personal costs of skin conditions are enormous and it needs to be a higher priority to employers, policy makers, healthcare professionals and individuals.”


Workplaces should use smart thinking to consider issues such as the time of day when the work needs to be performed, how shade can be used and proper risk identification.


In order to take all reasonable steps to minimise risk, he said employers should issue traditional personal protective equipment (PPE) such as high visibility clothing, eye protection, hard hats, earplugs, and so on.


“It’s important to stress that sunsmart PPE such as hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and sunsmart protective clothing is equally as important as these standard forms of protection and employers must ensure these are readily available and used by employees,” he said.


“Going a step further by undertaking skin health checks can not only help to reduce the prevalence and severity of skin cancer and sun damage but it shows the commitment of the employer to good skin health.”

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