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13.1 Introduction to managing UV/sun exposure risks

This section offers guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) on managing the risks of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure for road and roadside worker.

UV radiation is a type of radiation that is given off by the sun and some artificial sources (such as UVB work lights). This radiation can damage the genetic material (DNA) of skin cells, causing harm to a person.

UV radiation cannot be seen or felt, so workers may be exposed to harmful UV radiation without knowing.

UV radiation can harm a worker in several ways, including:

  • skin cancer
  • sunburn
  • eye damage (such as cataracts). 

The total amount of UV radiation that a worker may be exposed to when working outside depends on the factors described below.

Factor affecting UV exposure Things to consider
The time of day and time of year UV levels are highest when the sun is high (around midday) and during summertime (when the sun is higher in the sky for longer).
The weather conditions UV levels are generally higher on a cloudless day. However, UV radiation can pass through cloud cover and reach harmful levels even on a cloudy day.
Work surfaces Workers can be exposed to UV radiation as it reflects off surfaces such as roads and footpaths. The lighter the colour of the surface, the more UV radiation will be reflected. 
Medical and chemical exposure Certain medication and chemical exposures can also increase the chances of UV damage because they cause photosensitivity (which makes a person more sensitive to UV radiation).

Table 6: Factors that can affect UV exposure

All skin types can be damaged by UV rays.

13.2 Control measures for UV/sun exposure

Minimise exposure to UV radiation

As the risk of sun exposure cannot be fully eliminated, minimising exposure to UV radiation is important. Examples of how UV exposure can be minimised include:

  • providing shelter where possible
  • providing shade during breaks
  • rotating workers on jobs where there is the most UV exposure
  • avoiding uncovered outside work between the hours of 10am to 4pm, wherever practicable
  • educating workers on the risks of UV exposure, for example:
    • how they can keep themselves protected
    • what warning signs of UV damage to look out for
    • what to do if they suspect sun damage. 

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

As well as minimising the time workers spend exposed to UV radiation, PPE should also be provided.

PPE for UV radiation includes:

  • sunscreen and lip protection
  • breathable protective clothing
  • protective hats
  • protective eyewear or sunglasses. 

When considering what PPE options are appropriate, check that the proposed PPE is not going to introduce new risks. Examples of risks include:

  • workers overheating if the material is too heavy or not breathable
  • PPE equipment or clothing getting caught in machinery if it is too loose
  • wide brimmed hats or dark glasses limiting vision.
[image] Example of sun protection that can be fitted to hard hats and helmets
Figure 13: Example of sun protection that can be fitted to hard hats and helmets

13.3 Monitoring for UV damage

The skin and eye health of workers should be monitored. This is a practical way to check if control measures are working.

A system that checks workers for the risks from sun exposure can include:

  • encouraging workers to regularly check their own skin
  • providing annual skin checks by a doctor or nurse trained in skin cancer detection. For more information, see Section 17.0: Health monitoring
  • offering yearly vision checks
  • encouraging workers to get an abnormal mole, freckle or spot checked by their doctor (you should consider funding this expense)
  • reporting incidents of sun exposure and sunburn to a Health and Safety Representative or management. 

13.4 More information on UV/sun exposure