One area that can cause some confusion is workers’ clothing choices and the debate over whether workers should wear longs (long sleeved shirts and long pants) or shorts (short-sleeved shirts and short pants).
The long and the short of it is – when it comes to protecting the skin from the harmful effects of the sun – the best option is usually longs. Longs can also provide a barrier to protect workers against negative impacts such as insect, reptile and animal bites, as well as abrasions, cuts and projectiles that could damage the skin.
A simple visual check can confirm that workers are adequately protected when performing their work tasks as longs provide consistent all day blocking of UV rays compared to sunscreen. Advancements in clothing material quality and technologies also means that workers are actually able to stay cooler and ultimately more comfortable when performing work tasks in hot environments compared to the use of sunscreen only.
For sunscreen to be effective workers must monitor its application, have the discipline to apply it throughout the day and be trained in the correct application. Sunscreen application should still be used when clothing cover cannot be provided, however it is a harder method of skin protection control.
In 2017, a former member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) was successful in their workers compensation claim when diagnosed with skin cancer. A skin cancer clinician found that the repeated short bursts of sunburn the worker sustained whilst taking part in exercises within the Northern Territory, was a contributing factor.