10 October 2018
October is National Safe Work Month and Cancer Council SA is urging outdoor workers to protect their skin and eyes from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
The majority of skin cancers are caused by the sun’s UV radiation, so those who work outdoors are at significantly higher risk, receiving between five and ten times more sun exposure than indoor workers.
It’s estimated that 200 melanoma skin cancers and 34,000 non–melanoma skin cancers are caused by occupational UV exposure each year in Australia.
Employers and employees have a duty of care when it comes to protecting the health of workers and for South Australians who work outdoors, sun protection is an essential part of work, health and safety.
Jodie Bambridge knows all too well how important sun protection is. An outdoor worker for more than 15 years, she’s spent a lot of her time in the sun. Only after she attended a SunSmart awareness presentation run by Cancer Council SA did she think that the spot on her face might be something more than just a blemish.
“I had a spot between my lip and nose that was pointed out by my dad. He recommended that I go and get it checked, but it didn’t register with me as anything sinister.”
“However, throughout the presentation, I started to become quite emotional. I was confronted with such a visual warning sign and the moment of recognition was so sudden. The very next week I booked in to see my GP and have it checked, and my suspicions were correct—I saw a specialist, had a biopsy, and then plastic surgery,” said Jodie.
Jodie woke up from the surgery with 23 stiches in her face and a diagnosis of a basal cell carcinoma.
“My scar is a daily reminder to myself to stay vigilant, to do my bit to educate others, and to appreciate the life I’ve been given. I can’t stress enough the importance of education. For myself, it was hearing other peoples’ stories and having the undeniable images in front of me that finally shook me into taking action,” explained Jodie.
“My workplace has a very strict SunSmart policy, and we always wear personal protection and sunscreen, but you also can’t overlook the importance of checking your body. Any industry that is exposed to sun has a duty of care to engage with up to date SunSmart education initiatives. I didn’t realise how much I didn’t know until I saw it.”
Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world with more than 970,000 skin cancers treated each year and around 2,000 people dying from the disease, which is almost totally preventable.
Cancer Council Chief Executive Lincoln Size says it’s vital that outdoor workers are protected from overexposure to UV radiation.
“It’s important to remember that UV and heat are not connected. The heat we feel is the presence of infrared radiation, but UV radiation cannot be seen or felt. It is unrelated to temperature, and its damage to the skin is cumulative and irreversible.”
“Even on cool or cloudy days, like those we experience throughout spring, the potential for skin damage is significant. That’s why it is so important for outdoor workers to protect themselves year round,” he said.
“The simplest way to ensure your workers are protected is to implement a comprehensive sun protection policy that uses a combination of engineering and administrative controls, personal protective equipment and clothing to minimise exposure to UV radiation,” he said.
Early detection greatly increases your chances of successful treatment of skin cancer. Check your skin regularly and be aware of any new spots or changes in shape, size or colour to existing freckles or moles.
Cancer Council SA is offering their workplace ‘skin cancer prevention and early detection’ education sessions free for the month of October. For more information and to contact the SunSmart team, phone 08 8291 4269 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.