As temperatures begin to soar, Australia’s leading standards certifier and expert in business risk management is cautioning managers and supervisors of outdoor workers 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 Australia’s most-recognised certification – 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, for instance, 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, however may not protect against potential long-term health issues such as cataracts, retina degeneration or cancer.
To ensure protection, use products that display a certification mark such as the Five Ticks StandardsMark to provide peace of mind 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, “A pair of fashion sunnies may protect eyes from the sun and glare however only certified safety sunnies are guaranteed to keep you safe from harmful UV or from debris and flying particles when you’re on a work site. Similarly a non UV rated singlet or top may stop a worker from 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.
Richard provides his top tips for outdoors workers to stay safe this summer.
1. Don’t choose protective items based on appearance.
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.
Don’t make quality judgements based on price either. Low-cost sunglasses may be available and certified to meet Australian Standards and provide maximum protection from UV rays.
Ensure that safety glasses fit properly – ill-fitting glasses can be equally as dangerous as those that don’t comply with standards.
2. Seek as much shade as possible.
If you’re not working in a shaded area, seek places that are covered where you can take breaks. If these places aren’t accessible, arrange for some portable shade to be on site for instance with certified UV protective shade cloth. If possible try to rotate employees so they are working under the shade at least some of the time.
3. Purchase certified products.
Products will 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.
Be aware that not all products that claim to be certified are to an Australian standard. To be safe, look out for the Five Ticks ‘Certified Product’ StandardsMark or enter the Certification Licence number online to source further details.
4. Correct clothing.
Wear a broad-brimmed hat, ideally about 7.5cm that shades your face, ears and neck. If wearing a hard hat or helmet, use a brim attachment or a legionnaire cover to ensure you’re protected.
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 do the research to confirm you’ve picked the right mix for your employees.
5. Know when to stop.
Take regular breaks and if you feel uneasy at any point step away, find a cool area and hydrate. Avoid heights or machinery until you recover. If you’re feeling unwell before commencing work, tell someone and limit yourself to simpler tasks or avoid work completely.
6. Stay hydrated.
It’s easy to get carried away with a job and forget to hydrate often, as a result you may feel dizzy and find it difficult to concentrate or make clear decisions. Ideally, water should be on hand to drink at least every 20 minutes. Carry a water bottle with you to each area of the job to remind you to do so.
7. Don’t forget sunscreen.
Choose a sunscreen that is broad spectrum and water resistant ensuring to apply generously at least 20 minutes before you go to work. While sunscreens advise reapplication every couple of hours, when doing hard labour and sweating, you may need to reapply more frequently.