Employers urged to remember sun safety responsibilities
With New Zealand having one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world, people who work outdoors are being reminded to protect themselves as they have a higher risk of developing skin cancers.
With 15% of New Zealand’s workforce working outdoors, it is important that employers and workers understand why it is important to minimise sun exposure in outdoor workplaces.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Health and Safety Operations General Manager Ona de Rooy says that employers have a responsibility to take all practicable steps to protect their employees.
“This means they should be reminding their workers who spend long periods outside about sun protection and to keep hydrated,” says Ms de Rooy.
“Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun is the main cause of skin cancers in New Zealand. As we all know the greatest risk of being harmed takes place during late morning and early afternoon in the summer months - a time when many outdoor workers are at their busiest.
“Employers are also required to ensure that information is provided to employees about identified hazards, including the risks caused by UVR, and the steps to be taken to minimise the sunburn and dehydration,” Ms de Rooy says.
Cancer Society Health Promotion Manager Dr Jan Pearson says the best way to protect skin is by covering up with appropriate clothing, a hat and sunglasses, using sunscreen on exposed skin and seeking shade when possible.
“Over 400 New Zealanders die from skin cancer every year. The good news is that with some thought and preparation, the risk can be significantly reduced if we are SunSmart,” Dr Pearson says.
“As well as taking steps to protect their skin and eyes, outdoor workers should make a conscious effort to get any change in their skin including spots, moles or freckles checked by their GP alongside any other health concerns. More than 90% of cases of skin cancer can be cured if the disease is caught early.”
People especially at risk include:
- agricultural, farming and horticultural workers
- building and construction workers
- council workers
- dockyard, port and harbour workers
- fisheries workers
- forestry and logging workers
- labour hire company workers
- landscape and gardening workers
- mining and earth resources workers
- outdoor events workers
- physical education teachers and outdoor sports coaches
- police and traffic officers
- postal workers
- road workers
- swimming pool and beach lifeguards
- taxi, bus and truck drivers and delivery and courier service workers
- telecommunications and utilities workers.
Note to Editor
- View the fact sheet on skin cancer.
- Employers and employees can get SunSmart workplace material on the Cancer Society website.