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2015-10-09

sun smart

Summer and skin cancer

It looks like it's going to be a very hot summer, with all States already clocking up days of 30 degree plus temperatures and burning sunlight. 

The CWU has raised concerns many times about members working outdoors as temperatures during the summer months reach record highs. CWU members must be protected against heat stress, sun exposure, dehydration and other hazards.

If you or your Work Group members are going to be at risk of being exposed to UV radiation, then you should raise the issue with your HSR and local health and safety committee. Sun exposure is well established as the major cause of skin cancer in Australia. Those who work outdoors most of the time such as, posties are at the greatest risk but those who work outdoors part-time are still at risk. 

Conducting an ultraviolet (UV) risk assessment in the workplace will identify those employees who have a higher risk of exposure to UV radiation and the situations and work systems that have a higher exposure to UV radiation. The Post manager and/or HSR can conduct the assessment. 

Once the level of UV radiation risk in the workplace has been identified, control measures can be implemented. It is recommended that a combination of control measures be used. For example: 

  • the use of natural and/or artificial shade – take short breaks in shaded areas when UV rays are most intense, film tinting for van/truck windows,
  • administrative and procedural measures – try to reduce outdoor work when UV rays are most intense,
  • personal protection – hat, sunscreens, lip /eye protection, appropriate clothing to screen out UV radiation and cool in hot weather. 

On days of extreme weather managers should conduct a risk assessment in conjunction with HSRs and make necessary adjustments and give workers advice and safety instructions.

State and Territory Cancer Councils offer workplace training to help educate organisations and workers about the harmful effects of UV radiation.  Ask your manager to invite them to your workplace.

Contact your local HSR or CWU national office or state branch if you want advice before you step outside.

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