04:27 pm, Thursday 15 November, 2012
Photo: SafetyCulture Library
WorkCover NSW has recently issued a reminder to all regional businesses and workers to protect themselves when working under the sun to prevent fatigue.
General Manager of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division, John Watson said employers must take the lead in protecting their workers from ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight as well as in reducing the hazards associated with working in sunny work 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,” said Mr Watson.
“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.
“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,” he said.
As Christmas period is coming, Mr Watson is concerned many workers will be under increased pressure to get the job done before the year ends.
“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.
“In the three years to July 2011 there were 497 claims for workplace fatigue and heat stroke at a cost of $4.3 million.
“Business should set realistic workloads and work schedules, ensure fair distribution of work and provide regular rest breaks.
“Throughout November and over the summer months, WorkCover inspectors will be visiting work sites throughout regional NSW to talk about their procedures for working in hot and sunny environments and to ensure they have sun protection policies.”
WorkCover recommends the following actions for businesses to reduce workers’ exposure to harmful UV rays and prevent fatigue:
- Provide and maintain equipment and shelter to protect workers from the sun
- Provide sun safety information, instruction, training and supervision
- Rotate tasks to lessen exposure to the sun as well as mental and physical fatigue and to schedule work at cooler times of the day
- Use rest periods in addition to scheduled meal breaks
- Provide water and encourage workers to stay hydrated
- Provide personal protective equipment
- Use plant, machinery and equipment to eliminate or reduce the excessive physical demands of the job
Mr Watson also reminded that in the event of an injury, employers must have in place adequate return to work plans for their workers.
“Getting back to work quickly is the best outcome for an injured worker,” said Mr Watson.
“It is important for injured workers, employers and case managers to work together to ensure sustainable return-to-work results.
“For those unable to return to their pre-injury job, WorkCover has a range of vocational rehabilitation programs to help workers return to suitable employment.”
WorkCover will offer rebates up to $500 for small businesses and small traders to purchase and install safety improvements through its Small Business Rebate Program.
Further information is available on the WorkCover NSW website.
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