Melanoma: An occupational hazard

Thursday 15 March 2018
Janet Tucci

Melanoma is a dangerous skin cancer often found on parts of the body overexposed to the sun.  It can be present on other body parts as well. It is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia and can take many years to develop after sun exposure, this can even be up to 40 years.

According to the Cancer Council some occupations pose a higher risk, simply due to the outdoor nature of the work.  These occupations include: building and construction work, telecommunications, swimming pool and life guards, police and traffic officers, agricultural, farming and horticultural workers, landscape gardeners, fisheries workers, road workers, municipal employees, postal workers, dockyard and port or harbour workers, catering workers, outdoor events workers, PE teachers and other outdoor sports teachers and coaches, surveyors, forestry and logging workers, ski instructors and lift operators, mining and earth resources workers, taxi, bus, truck and delivery drivers and labour hire company workers.

The Cancer Council recommends the following preventative measures be employed during high UV exposure times (especially between 10am and 2pm):

  • Slip on a shirt;
  • Slop on a sunscreen;
  • Slap on a hat;
  • Seek shade during the midday hours; and
  • Slide on some sunglasses.

Both employers and employees share the responsibility equally to reduce the risk of melanoma.

Employers should:

  • Undertake risk assessments to identify tasks and employees with high potential of UV exposure
  • Take steps to reduce employee UV exposure, i.e.:
    • Use of natural or artificial shade
    • Modification of work tasks during the highest UV times
    • Provide personal protection equipment (sun protective clothing, sun protective hats, sunscreen)
  • Highlight sun protection as a key health and safety issue, and the importance of using sun protection measures
  • Develop and maintain a sun protection program and policy, providing the necessary safety equipment
  • Provide annual skin/health checks for employees.

Employees should:

  • Proactively communicate obvious UV risks to the employer
  • Comply with the skin protection policy by wearing the protective materials provided
  • Attend all training provided
  • Regularly perform self-examinations to monitor any skin changes (at least every three months)
  • Seek medical advice early if any skin changes do occur.

Performing skin examinations

When checking for skin changes, you may require a hand-held mirror or seek someone’s assistance to check your neck, back, scalp and hard to access places.

The A.B.C.D of early detection are as follows:

  • A = Asymmetry: one ½ of a spot does not match the other
  • B = Border: the edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred
  • C = Colour: the colour is not the same all over and may include other shades
  • D = Diameter: the spot is larger than 6mm across or is growing larger.

 

It is also important to check for any changes in pre-existing freckles or moles, i.e. that may be growing, changing or becoming itchy. It may be helpful to photograph a spot over time to highlight any changes.

If there are any changes or you have concerns, please seek prompt medical advice.

If your work has caused or contributed to you developing melanoma disease or skin cancer, it is important that you receive the right advice.

Call the experienced workers compensation lawyers at Adviceline on (03) 9321 9988 to book your free appointment for independent, clear and practical guidance about how you can access compensation.

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