Summer is upon us and already, in many parts of Australia, it is set to be one of the hottest on record. If you’re spending a large part of your working day outside when the UV index is high, it’s time to start thinking about how to protect yourself from the heat and harmful UV rays as well as the practicalities of working in hot conditions.
The reality is that skin cancers are the single biggest form of cancer diagnosed in Australia each and every year. The Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing reports that about 14,000 new cases of melanoma – the worst of the skin cancers – is diagnosed each year, and about 1,800 people die from the disease.
If you are occupied in a job or trade where you are at increased risk of UV exposure and skin cancer, it’s critical that you think about your workwear and how you can best protect yourself from it.
The good news is it’s not hard to take some simple, easy steps to lessen your exposure to the harmful effects of heat, bright sunshine and UV, while still looking good on the job.
Some key things to think about include:
- Choose medium to dark coloured clothes – they are cooler than black clothes but they also absorb more UV before it can reach your skin than white clothes.
- Consider choosing long sleeves and pants as they offer better protection.
- Choose natural (specifically cotton) clothes, or high quality breathable composite fabrics with a tight weave at no more than 125gm – they will be more comfortable and offer good protection.
- Look for clothing with a UPF rating of 50 or above.
- Look for clothes with good ventilation.
- Make sure you have a high quality pair of sunglasses with a 2-4 UV protection rating with a large frame that sits tight on your face.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat that covers your face, ears and neck.
- Invest in high quality sunscreen and focus particularly on your lips, which are a common site for skin cancers. And don’t forget to reapply sunscreen regularly (at least every two hours).
Of course, it might not be practical for your work place or type to meet all of these recommendations. If you need to wear shorter sleeves or pants, or a less protective hat, remember that sunscreen becomes even more important.
Finally, it’s absolutely essential to maintain your hydration when it’s hot and find shade whenever practical.
Being able to work in the great outdoors is a fabulous opportunity but make sure you stay sensible and manage the impacts of heat, sunshine and UV by wearing the right workwear for the job.