Working in the sun

In the ACT, Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) levels can be consistently high, particularly during the warmer months. UVR can reach a person on the ground from three sources, directly from the sun, scattered from the open sky and reflected from the environment. It is important for all workers to be protected from exposure to the sun. Exposure to UVR from the sun can lead to skin damage, sunburn and cancer.

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage the risks from the work environment, this includes the risk of UVR exposure.

Typically, UVR levels can be extremely high during the day in warmer months. However, it can still be hazardous in cooler months. The risks may also be increased  when working on or near reflective surfaces, such as windows, metal or near water or snow.

As a PCBU, you should manage the risks associated with exposure to solar UVR by following the risk management process:

  • identifying hazards – find out what could cause harm
  • assessing risks if necessary – understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening
  • controlling risks – putting control measures in place that are reasonably practicable in the circumstances, and
  • reviewing control measures to ensure they are working as planned.

Some control measures to reduce the risk of exposure to solar UVR could include eliminating the risk by working indoors, if this is not possible, consider isolation substitution or engineering controls, such as:

  • working in the shade, for example installing shade tents, and
  • putting covers over reflective surfaces

Then consider administration controls, such as:

  • planning work that it done outside during lower levels of solar UVR, such as night-time or early morning, and
  • rotating work tasks so workers get a break from being in the sun.

PPE should be used by all workers working outside if the UV index is above a 3. It should be worn at all times by workers who are outside all day, even if the UV index is low (1-2).

As the PCBU, you must ensure you provide suitable PPE for your workers, such as:

  • lightweight long-sleeved clothes that block the UVR
  • sunglasses with a high UVR protection
  • a broad brimmed hat with neck flap should be considered over hats with a lower level of protection, such as caps, and
  • a high protection (UVR30+) and broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen should be provided for working outside, even on cloudy, cooler days
    • Sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours, or more often when sweating.

You can download a free app that sets reminders for sunscreen application.

For further information on UV risks in the workplace download the Working in the Sun factsheet (PDF109KB) (DOC93KB), or visit the Sunsmart Workplace Portal.

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