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Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with 1 in 3 Australians being affected before the age of 70. It does not matter if you are working outdoors, studying outdoors or travelling to and from the University, it is important to ensure that you are sun safe.
What is Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR)?
UVR is a non-ionising form of radiation that is emitted by the sun. UVR is the main cause of skin cancer but it can also cause skin damage, sunburn, premature aging and eye damage. Unfortunately, UVR is not like the sun’s light or heat, which can be seen and felt. Your senses cannot detect UVR and therefore you won’t notice the damage until it has been done. Peak UVR occurs between 10am and 2pm or 11am and 3pm during daylight savings. It is during these timeslots that extra care to sun protection must be given.
What is the UV Index?
UV index is a rating system used to describe the amount of UVR that reaches the earth’s surface in the suns light rays. The higher the number, the stronger the UVR and the quicker skin damage can occur. Damage to the skin occurs when the UV Index is at 3 or above.
Sun Protection Control Measures
Nearly all skin cancers can be prevented by simply implementing some simple sun protection control measures when we are going outside. The hierarchy of Control can be applied to our safety in the sun:
Elimination and Substitution Control Measures
Where practicable, complete the task in an indoor location. This is especially important on days where the UV Index is high.
Engineering Control Measures
Use natural or artificial shade to reduce the risk of UVR exposure. Shade can be created by permanent objects such as trees, buildings and covered walkways or from non-permanent structures such as canopies, tents or umbrellas.
Remember: Shade does not eliminate UVR exposure but only minimises it. UVR exposure has the potential to scatter or be reflected.
Administrative Control Measures
Consideration should be given to the reorganisation of outdoor tasks and activities during the timeslot that UVR intensity is at its greatest. This may involve:
- Completing indoor based tasks
- Completing tasks in shaded areas
- Rotating tasks between individuals to limit UVR exposure
- Varying start and finishing times
- Alteration of timing and frequency of breaks
Rest breaks should be taken in a cool place and include drinking fluids to avoid dehydration or the effects of heat.
Remember: Short work periods followed by short rest breaks are better than long work periods followed by long rest breaks.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Control Measure
PPE are items specifically designed to protect the wearer from specific hazard. In terms of sun protection, the PPE mentioned bellowed are in reference to reducing the risk of UVR exposure.
Clothing and Accessories:
- Shirts with collars and long sleeves
- Trousers or shorts/skirts that sit below the knee
- Loose fitting clothing to allow air circulation and to reduce heat stress
- Close, densely woven fabric to prevent UVR from passing through
- Broad rim hat or a bucket or legionnaire style hat will protect the face, ears and neck
- Sunglasses that fit well to your face
Sunscreen and Lip Protection should be:
- SPF30+ or higher
- Water resistant
- Applied generously 20 minutes prior to going outdoors and 2 hours thereafter.
It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure they are being safe in the sun, whether you are working, studying or just enjoying being outdoors.