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Skin cancer injuries costing NSW millions

WorkCover NSW has reminded workers to protect themselves when working in the sun, after revealing that skin cancer injuries are costing the state more than $2 million a year. In the lead up to summer, the General Manager of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division, John Watson, said businesses also needed to take steps to protect sun-exposed workers from ultra violet (UV) radiation in sunlight and reduce the hazards associated with working in hot and sunny environments.

“Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world, at nearly four times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK,” Mr Watson said.

“In the three years to July 2011 there were 433 claims for work-related skin cancer at a cost of $6.2 million to the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme,” he said.

“Workers can be exposed to UV radiation when working in the sun as well as in the shade or undercover due to reflection from surrounding surfaces, so it is important to wear sun protection in all outdoor conditions.”

Mr Watson said that as Christmas draws closer many workers come under pressure to get the job done before the holiday period and that this can lead to further injury.

“These pressures, coupled with long working hours in the sun, can increase the likelihood of fatigue-related injuries,” he said.

“Fatigue and heat-stress can affect a worker’s health, reducing their performance and productivity and increasing the chance of a workplace injury through reduced ability to concentrate, recognise risks and communicate effectively.”

Mr Watson noted that in the three years to July 2011 there were 497 claims for workplace fatigue and heat stroke at a cost of $4.3 million.

“Businesses should set realistic workloads and work schedules, ensure fair distribution of work and provide regular rest breaks,” he said.

To reduce workers’ exposure to UV radiation and prevent fatigue, WorkCover has issued a number of guidelines, which include common sense measures such as providing protective clothing and maintaining shelter from the sun.

The full list is available on the WorkCover website:

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