We will soon be into the Australian summer months (December to February) when UV radiation levels are at their highest. And the results of two recent studies about solar UV radiation and the inadequate application of risk controls in Australia are a definite cause for concern. About 90% of the workers surveyed are not using adequate controls.
So this might be a good time to revisit this issue by reviewing the effectiveness of the risk controls for UV radiation in your workplace.
This article deals with the results of the above studies and appropriate risk controls. It also contains information that is also relevant to your workers in their personal life as well as their workday activities.
The Research Results
1. The Cancer Council National Sun Survey
In September the Cancer Council released the results of its National Sun Survey. That survey showed that 35% of adults in NSW did not realise that UV radiation is the only cause of sunburn and the major cause of skin cancer. It is not temperature or any other reason. UV radiation is an invisible danger.
It seems unlikely that the 35% of adults in this study would be taking consistent steps to protect themselves against UV radiation.
2. The Australian Work Exposures Study
The University of West Australia surveyed 5528 workers aged 18 to 65 about what methods they used to protect themselves against UV radiation. Safe Work Australia used the survey results to compile and publish in May 2016, three separate reports about the Manufacturing, Construction, and Agricultural Industries.
The reports show that the % of workers in Agriculture using adequate controls to prevent UV radiation exposure is only 10%. In Construction it was 8%, and in Manufacturing it was 7%. That means about 90% of the workers in the study are not using adequate controls!
Safe Work Australia’s, Guide on Exposure to Solar UV Radiation, states that combining control measures is the most effective way of preventing exposure.
Your Workplace and Resources for Handling
The above studies indicate that there is an unsatisfactory level of implementation actions to prevent skin cancer for workers and a high level of confusion amongst Australian adults about what causes sunburn and skin cancer.
You may be justifiably confident that there is no cause for concern in your workplace. But bear in mind that maintaining and reviewing risk controls is required under sections 37 and 38 of the WHS Regulations 2011.
HSRs and H&S Committee Involvement
If you do decide that a review is appropriate then we recommend that you involve your HSRs and H&S Committee. They can be a very effective means of helping you to raise awareness, understanding, agreement and co-ordinated action to get results in your workplace.
The resources listed below may assist you to review whether all reasonably practicable risk controls are in place for your work activities where there is exposure to solar UV radiation. They can also be useful for everyone in your workplace for handling the solar UV radiation they get exposed to in their personal life.
Safe Work Australia: Guide on Exposure to Solar UV Radiation
Courtenell Article: Skin Cancer and Sunburn Risk Control
Bureau of Meteorology UV and Sun Protection Times
FAQs about UV Radiation
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