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7 expert tips to help employees stay safe at work this summer

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Australia’s leading standards certifier and business risk management specialist, SAI Global offers seven tips to protect outdoor workers against sun- and heat-related incidents.

As temperatures begin to soar, managers and supervisors of outdoor workers will need to assess if their ‘sun safe’ items, such as Ultra Violet (UV) protective clothing, hats, shade cloth and safety sunglasses meet Australian Standards.

Employees operating in direct sunlight face the danger of skin cancer, sun burn, heat exhaustion or accident as a result of fatigue. SAI Global, which developed the Five Ticks StandardsMark, warns that many ‘sun safe’ items in the market fail to meet Australian safety standards, potentially putting employees at risk. 

While a long-sleeved shirt may carry an ultraviolet protection factor label, it may not have the ability to absorb UV at the level required for optimal protection. Similarly, an uncertified pair of safety glasses with tint may be labelled to protect from UV rays but may not protect against potential long-term health issues such as cataracts, retina degeneration or cancer. Using products that display a certification mark such as the Five Ticks StandardsMark will provide protection as well as the assurance that the item has been manufactured according to an Australian Standard. 

Employees choosing to wear fashion items such as caps and sunglasses in place of certified protection equipment suitable for their working conditions are also at risk. Richard Donarski, Team Leader Health and Safety, Product Services at SAI Global explains that a pair of fashion sunnies may protect the eyes from the sun and glare; however, only certified safety sunnies are guaranteed to keep them safe from harmful UV or debris and flying particles at a work site. Similarly a non-UV rated singlet or top may prevent overheating, but there is the risk of UV skin damage and sunburn.

As Australia’s leading product certification body, SAI Global partners with local and overseas manufacturers to ensure sun-safe and heat-safe products comply with Australian and international quality and safety standards. 

Top tips for outdoors workers to stay safe this summer

1. Don’t choose protective items based on appearance or price.


When shopping for sunglasses, the darkness of a lens should not be used to gauge protection from UV rays. The tint is designed to reduce glare. In fact, some clear lenses may provide maximum protection. Buyers are also advised not to make quality judgements based on price. Low-cost sunglasses may be certified to meet Australian Standards, providing maximum protection from UV rays. Also ensure that safety glasses fit properly; ill-fitting glasses can be as dangerous as those that don’t comply with standards. 

2. Seek as much shade as possible.


Outdoor workers should seek shaded or covered areas to take breaks. If a shaded area is not accessible, a portable shade with certified UV protective shade cloth should be arranged on site. If possible, try to rotate employees so they are working under the shade at least some of the time. 

3. Purchase certified products.


Products must be labelled with an appropriate certification mark, the Australian Standard reference, and should include the name of the organisation, the date it was certified and a certification licence number. Not all products that claim to be certified will meet the appropriate Australian standard. To be safe, look out for the Five Ticks ‘Certified Product’ StandardsMark or enter the Certification Licence number online at http://register.saiglobal.com to source further details. 

4. Wear correct clothing. 


Outdoor workers are advised to wear a broad-brimmed hat, ideally about 7.5cm that shades the face, ears and neck. If wearing a hard hat or helmet, use a brim attachment or a legionnaire cover to ensure ample protection. Full-length pants and tops are also good for full body protection. Remember different types of fabric provide different protection. Closeness of weave, colour and condition can affect the ability of material to absorb UV rays, so any selection of protective clothing should be preceded by sufficient research. 

5. Know when to stop. 


Encourage workers to take regular breaks; if a worker feels uneasy at any point, have them step away, find a cool area and hydrate. Also, have them avoid heights or machinery until full recovery. 

6. Stay hydrated. 


It’s easy to get carried away with a job and forget to hydrate often, resulting in dizziness and difficulty in concentrating or making clear decisions. Workers should ideally carry a water bottle and drink from it at least every 20 minutes. 

7. Don’t forget sunscreen. 


Outdoor workers should choose a broad spectrum and water resistant sunscreen, applying it generously at least 20 minutes before getting to work. While sunscreens advise reapplication every couple of hours, outdoor workers may need to reapply more frequently due to perspiration. 

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