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Sun Protection Guidelines for Outdoor Workers

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) These guidelines supplement the Sun Protection Policy and provide guidance on sun protection measures for staff and students when working outdoors.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(2) Nil.

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Section 3 - Policy Statement

(3) Refer to the Sun Protection Policy.

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Section 4 - Procedures

(4) Nil.

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Section 5 - Guidelines


(5) These guidelines are intended to provide information and guidance to outdoor staff and students who, because of the nature of their work environment, may be exposed to different types of radiation emitted from the sunlight. Of particular concern are infrared (IR) radiation (which provides heat) and ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

(6) IR radiation is felt as heat, and is not related to UV radiation levels. Temperature therefore cannot be used as a guide as to when protection from the sun is needed.

(7) UV radiation cannot be felt, and is divided into four sub-divisions:

  1. UV-A 315-400 nm
  2. UV-B 280-315 nm
  3. UV-C 200-280 nm (does not reach the earth)
  4. Vacuum UV 100-200 nm (does not reach the earth)

    (8) Although sunlight contains more UV-A than UV-B, UV-B causes more skin damage.

(9) Peak solar UV radiation occurs between 10am and 2pm (or 11am and 3pm daylight saving time).

(10) Staff and students working outdoors are at higher-risk of developing both short and long-term health problems because of their exposure to heat and solar radiation. Such work may involve gardening, farm work, outdoor field work, security, maintenance and construction.

(11) Heat and solar radiation hazards posed by outdoor work include:

  1. skin cancer e.g. basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma
  2. skin damage e.g. sunburn, keratoses (dry, red, flat, scaly spots), premature aging, wrinkles, skin pigmentation
  3. eye injuries and disease e.g. photoconjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva), photokeratitis (inflammation of the cornea and iris), cataracts (clouding of the eye lens), pterygium (a benign, white growth on the cornea), cancer of the eye
  4. skin rashes, dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke

(12) BCCs and SCCs are the most common skin cancers and are likely to develop on sun-exposed areas such as the head, neck, ears, lips, shoulders, legs and arms. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

(13) Photosensitivity (an abnormally high sensitivity to UV radiation) may be induced by exposure to particular substances called photosensitisers. These substances include industrial chemicals (such as coal tars and derivatives, certain dyes and chlorinated hydrocarbons), some drugs, and selected plants, oils, fragrances and sunscreen additives. Refer to Appendix 2 of the Safe Work Australia - Guidance Note for the Protection of Workers from the Ultraviolet Radiation in Sunlight and Annex 2 of the Radiation Protection Standard for Occupational Exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation (2006), published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency for a comprehensive list of these substances. It should be noted that it is rare for an individual to develop photosensitisation.

Risk Assessment

(14) An ultraviolet (UV) risk assessment (following the University Risk Assessment and Control Procedure) must be conducted to identify those staff and students who are at a higher risk of solar UV exposure. The Safe Work Australia - Guidance Note for the Protection of Workers from the Ultraviolet Radiation in Sunlight recommends the following approach:

  1. Conduct a 'walk through' inspection of work areas to establish the amount of UV radiation that staff and students are exposed to.
  2. The risk assessment should take into account:
    1. work practices, (including breaks), where exposure to UV radiation occurs
    2. the time of day and how often tasks are carried out
    3. any shade provided in the environment where the work is performed
    4. exposure to solar UV radiation from reflective surfaces (e.g. water, reflective building glass, white surfaces such as sand, rock, cement or snow, and materials such as unpainted corrugated steel or aluminium roofing)
    5. any photosensitising substances use on the workplace
    6. exposure to solar radiation can occur on sunny and cloudy days
  3. Determine any existing control measures that affect UV radiation exposure, such as:
    1. current provision of shade during work or rest breaks
    2. organising work to occur outside of peak UV radiation times
    3. the use of protective clothing and equipment (PPCE)

(15) The risk assessment must be reviewed when changes to work procedures may result in an increase in solar UV radiation exposure.

Exposure Control

(16) Safe work procedures must be developed and implemented in a consultative manner. Staff and students are required to comply with control measures identified and report any difficulties in achieving compliance with their supervisor.

(17) Where applicable, exposure to both solar UV radiation and photosensitisers should be minimised.

(18) Exposure to heat and radiation in the workplace can be minimised by implementing a combination of the following control measures:

Provide Shade:

(19) Exposure to solar UV radiation can still occur in shade but can be reduced by using:

  1. natural or existing shade e.g. from trees and shrubs, existing buildings
  2. temporary structures e.g. shade cloths, canopies, awnings, tents, umbrellas
  3. A shaded or indoor area should be provided for tea breaks and lunch.
  4. Vehicles and machinery (e.g. tractors and mowers) should be fitted with shade canopies if possible.
  5. Solid, tightly woven fabrics such as canvas or sailcloth provide effective barriers against UV radiation. Some heavy textiles give up to 97% UV protection from the sun. Check the UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating for fabrics and portable structures before purchase (see Table 1).
  6. Even in the shade, it is important to consider exposure to solar UV radiation that may occur from the reflection from bright surfaces in the environment.

Change Work Hours

(20) Review work practices so that outdoor work is organised around the temperature and outside of peak UV radiation times by:

  1. starting work earlier in the day (7am or earlier in summer)
  2. plan to work outdoors early in the morning or later in the afternoon when UV radiations levels are lower
  3. scheduling indoor work during peak UV radiation times (10am - 2pm, or 11am and 3pm daylight saving time)
  4. share outdoor tasks and rotate staff so that outside work is shared
  5. take morning tea and lunch breaks in the shade
  6. check the SunSmart UV alert to determine the daily UV forecast (see Clause 24 below).

Provide Protective Clothing and Equipment (PPCE)

(21) The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) requires that employers provide appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment when the use of such is identified to control risks.

(22) PPCE includes:

  1. Clothing
    1. Clothing should be loose-fitting, allow sweat to evaporate and cover as much of the skin as possible e.g. long-sleeved shirts with collars to protect the neck, long trousers or skirts, fingerless gloves.
    2. Fabrics should be lightweight, of close weave, breathable and light in colour. Purpose made protective clothing is available and has UPF ratings of 40, 45, 50 or 50+ (the higher the UPF the better - see Table 1). UPF 50+ is recommended.

Table 1: Classification System as presented in AS/NZS 4399:1996

UPF Range % UV radiation absorbed %UV radiation transmitted UVR protection category
15 to 24 93.3 to 95.8 6.7 to 4.2 Good
25 to 39 95.9 to 97.4 4.1 to 2.6 Very good
40 to 50+ 97.5> <2.5 Excellent
Other hazards should be considered when selecting clothing so that secondary hazards are not introduced e.g. low visibility; loose fitting clothing while operating plant and machinery.
  1. Hats
    1. Hats should be worn at all times when outdoors and should:
      1. shade the face, head, ears and neck
      2. be broad brimmed, bucket or legionnaire style
      3. if broad brimmed, have a brim of at least 8cm (if caps are chosen they should have neck flaps)
      4. be made of tightly woven material of light colour (check the UPF rating)
      5. be comfortable
    2. Hard hats or helmets should have broad brim and neck flap attachments. If the wide brim poses a secondary hazard, the safety function of the hat should take priority and other control measures implemented to offer sun protection.
  2. Sunscreens
    1. Sunscreens should be:
      1. compliant with AS 2604 Sunscreen Products - Evaluation and Classification
      2. broad spectrum and water resistant
      3. SPF (sun protection factor) 30+
      4. generously applied to clean, dry skin (including ears and back of neck) at least 20 minutes before exposure to the sun
      5. wiped onto the skin, rather than rubbed in
      6. reapplied every 2 hours or more often when sweating
      7. used in conjunction with other protective measures such as clothing
      8. stored in an easily accessible and cool place, and used within its expiry date
      9. an SPF 30+ lip balm or zinc cream should be frequently used to protect the lips.
  3. Sunglasses
    1. Sunglasses should:
      1. meet AS 1067: Sunglasses and Fashion. Lens categories 2, 3 or 4 with a 'good UV protection' description are recommended
      2. be EPF9 or EPF10 (eye protection factor)
      3. be glare resistant, lightweight, comfortable and close-fitting. Wrap around styles afford the best protection
      4. Fit-overs should be provided for employees wearing prescription glasses, as tinted prescription glasses are excluded from AS/NZS 1067. (Further advice should be sought from the employee's optometrist).
      5. Other hazards in the workplace may need to be considered when selecting appropriate eye protection e.g. projectile hazards, infection control, chemicals and laboratory and industrial applications. See AS 1337 Eye Protectors for Industrial Applications

Education and Training

(23) Training and education programs to raise awareness and increase knowledge of the harmful effects of solar radiation should:

  1. increase and improve awareness of the risks of exposure to solar UV radiation;
  2. promote safe working practices;
  3. provide information on self-screening for skin cancer (see Health Surveillance below);
  4. be on-going;
  5. be included in the induction of new staff and students;
  6. be developed in consultation with employees.

(24) Information and resources for workplace education and training packages can be obtained from Cancer Council NSW.

SunSmart UV Alert

(25) The UV Index is a rating system describing the amount of UV radiation in sunlight that reaches the earth's surface. The higher the number, the stronger the levels of UV radiation and the less time it takes for skin damage to occur.

(26) Damage to the skin can occur when the UV index is at 3 and above.

(27) A SunSmart UV Alert is issued by the Bureau of Meteorology whenever the UV index is expected to reach 3 or above. The SunSmart UV Alert is reported daily on the Bureau of Meteorology website and on the weather page of all Australian daily newspapers.

Health Surveillance

(28) The Cancer Council Australia recommends that employees be provided with self-examination information and be encouraged to examine their own skin.

(29) Employees must be aware of:

  1. the need to check their own skin;
  2. the importance of becoming familiar with how their skin normally looks;
  3. how often to examine their own skin;
  4. how to examine their own skin;
  5. what to look for during self examination;
  6. what to do if something looks suspicious

(30) The SunSmart information sheet on Early Detection and Treatment of Skin Cancer provides the following advice on self examination:


(31) All adults should check their skin for changes at least every three months. Unlike many other cancers, skin cancer is often visible, making it easier to detect in the early stages. Early detection is crucial if skin cancer is to be cured. Use a hand-held mirror to check the skin on your back and the back of your neck or ask someone else to look for you. Don't forget to check your armpits, inner legs, ears, eyelids, hands and feet. Use a comb to move sections of hair aside and inspect your scalp.

A B C D E: what to look for

(32) If you notice any of the following please see your GP.

  1. Asymmetry — One half of the spot doesn't match the other;
  2. Border — The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred;
  3. Colour — The colour is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, red, white or blue;
  4. Diameter — The spot is larger than 6 mm across (about 1/4 inch) or is growing larger;
  5. Evolution and/or elevation — The spot may enlarge and a flat spot may become raised in a matter of a few weeks.

(33) Also be aware of any mole or freckle that:

  1. changes over a period of months;
  2. grows in size;
  3. changes shape;
  4. becomes mottled in colour;
  5. has a persistent itch.

(34) Photographs of any suspicious areas can be useful to record any changes. If you are worried about any skin changes, talk to your doctor."

(35) Refer also to section 5 (Health Surveillance) of the Safe Work Australia - Guidance Note for the Protection of Workers from the Ultraviolet Radiation in Sunlight for more information.

Further Information

(36) Please contact the WHS&W if you require further information.

(37) Useful references and websites include:

  1. The Cancer Council NSW
  2. WorkCover NSW - Five Steps to Keeping Workers Safe in Heat
  3. Safe Work Australia - Guidance Note for the Protection of Workers from the Ultraviolet Radiation in Sunlight
  4. Bureau of Meteorology - SunSmart UV Alert
  5. SunSmart
  6. Radiation Protection Standard for Occupational Exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation (2006), published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)
  7. Solar UV Radiation and the UV index - ARPANSA