AVOID BECOMING A STATISTIC AND LEARN HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM UV RAYS THIS SUMMER.
It won’t shock you to learn that the Aussie sun is one of the harshest in the world, with new data revealing that 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.
By nature of the job, many tradies are exposed to the sun more often than most, which increases their risk of developing serious health issues like melanoma.
Our tradies are ten times more susceptible to exposure to skin cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation (UV) than that of an indoor worker. Nearly a quarter of tradies surveyed rarely or occasionally wear sunscreen in the summer months, and in winter, this drops even more.
“Tradies are known to have high standards when it comes to safety on site, but this data shows that many aren’t fully considering sun safety as a part of their daily routines. Despite two-thirds of respondents (66%) being concerned about developing skin cancer, over a fifth (22%) don’t believe sunscreen is necessary every day.” – Cancer Council
Thankfully there are several things Aussie tradies can do to help lower their risk of skin cancer.
HOW TO MANAGE THE RISK?
Wear Your P.P.E
When you think Slip, Slop, Slap, you think about a relaxing day at the beach, but it is the days of constant sun exposure – like when you’re at work – when you need to be careful.
A not-so-fun fact is that UV rays can penetrate through glass, causing you to burn, and increasing your risk of melanomas. As a duty of care, employers must ensure their employees can work safely and without risk to their health, including exposure to UV radiation. - WorkSafe.
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.
If you want more protection than what your employer can offer, or if you are self-employed, all personal protective equipment (PPE) is tax deductible.
Don’t let fashion get in the way of your safety, a backwards baseball cap might make you look cool, but you will still feel the heat. Aim for a wide-brim hat to cover the ears, nose, face, and neck. Add in a pair of wrap-around, close-fitting sunglasses to finish the look and keep you safe.
There is nothing healthy about a tan, use sunscreen, the higher the SPF the better.
Apply water-resistant SPF 50+ before you leave for work and reapply every two to three hours… and more often if you are sweatier during the hotter months - don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Use a non-greasy sunscreen to help keep a grip on the driving wheel or the tools that you’re using.
“Keep sunscreen in your lunch cooler so it is stored below 30 degrees. It will also be cool to apply on hot days. Don’t store sunscreen in the glovebox as it will get too hot if kept in the vehicle and not be as effective. Check the expiry date.” – Cancer Council
- Whenever you stop, try to avoid sitting in the sun. Take your breaks indoors or in the shade when you can.
- Wear a loose-fitting shirt with long sleeves and collar and long trousers made from UFP50+ material. Choose one made from breathable fabric (e.g., cotton) to allow good ventilation so you don’t get too hot on the job.
Over 70% of melanomas are self-diagnosed by people or their partners, and nearly all skin cancers can be cured if detected and treated early. It is vital that you get to know your skin, feel comfortable checking it, and know what to look out for.
Skin cancers don’t all look the same, but there are signs to look out for, including:
- a spot that looks and feels different from other spots on your skin
- a spot that has changed size, shape, colour or texture
- a sore that doesn’t heal within a few weeks
- a sore that is itchy or bleeds.
If you’re concerned about changes to your skin, you should contact a medical practitioner who will check your skin for changes in shape, colour or size of existing freckles, moles, or spots. The Cancer Council has information on how to perform skin self-examinations and examples of what melanomas can look like.
Australia’s higher level of UV radiation puts everyone at risk of skin cancer, but some more than others. Cancer Council compiled a list of those who should receive regular checks from professionals if you have:
- had previous skin cancer, including melanoma
- a family history of skin cancer
- fair or freckled skin, especially those with skin that burns easily
- red or fair hair and light-coloured eyes
- lots of moles on their body
- worked or currently work outdoors
- actively tanned or used solariums
- a weakened immune system
- certain skin conditions, including sunspots.
People at high risk of developing skin cancer—including those who work outdoors—should consult their doctor about developing a surveillance program. - SunSmart
Prevention is better than cure.
Thankfully, skin cancer has a 93% survival rate, but it is best to be proactive, not reactive. In an ideal world, you would plan your workday around the sun's movements, and try to do the bulk of the outdoor tasks in the morning or late afternoon, but we know this isn’t always feasible.
Roughly 80% of UV rays travel through cloud cover, so don’t rely on the forecast to keep you protected - sunscreen and P.P.E are still a must to stay safe on the road during summer.