SunSmart workplaces

Looking after employees who work outside.

Outdoor workers have a higher risk of developing skin cancer because they can receive up to 10 times more UV radiation exposure than indoor workers.

Damage from UV radiation exposure accumulates over time so the more you are exposed, the greater your risk of skin cancer. Sun protection should be used all year when working outdoors. 

Outdoor workers can be from multiple occupations not just what is typically thought of as 'outdoor workers' like builders and construction workers. 

How to protect workers 

Under the Health and Safety Work Act (HSWA) 2015, employers are responsible for not putting workers at risk from UV radiation. If it is identified that UV could be a hazard, employers must take steps to deal with this risk. 

The best way to ensure you are protecting your employees from harmful UV radiation is to adopt a SunSmart workplace policy. A sample policy is available that you can adapt to suit your workplace.  

Tips for employers to provide a SunSmart workplace:

  • Remember that employees who work outside all day are advised to use sun protection measures year-round because UV radiation damage accumulates over time. Even low UV radiation levels can be harmful if workers are exposed for long periods. 
  • Reduce the amount of time workers spend outside in the sun if possible through providing shade or rescheduling work tasks.
  • An employee sitting in a vehicle or close to windows with direct sun can still receive significant exposure to UV radiation - make sure to use film or tint windows to provide protection.
  • Provide items that can protect employees from the sun like water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF30; sun protective clothing; a wide-brimmed hat or helmet with a peak; neck guard and close-fitting sunglasses that meet safety and sun protection standards.
  • Remember sunscreen should be liberally applied every 2 hours (or more often if sweating) and not stored anywhere too hot, like a car glovebox.
  • Give employees training and information - including how to check your skin. The Cancer Society and Melanoma New Zealand have information about skin checks. 
  • Record and monitor UV radiation-related injuries. 

It’s also good to encourage workers to be SunSmart when they head outside to take a break, walk to a meeting, or get exercise.

Read more about Worksafe and your primary duty of care.

Regularly check UV levels 

As you cannot see or feel UV radiation, managing the risk of UV radiation requires regularly checking UV levels - even on a cloudy or cold day. 

The level (intensity) of UV radiation is measured by the ultraviolet index (UVI). The higher the UVI number, the greater the potential for damage to the skin and eyes. When the UVI is 3 or above through the course of any day, we need to be SunSmart and Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap.  If the UVI is low (1-2), this generally means it’s safe to be outdoors unprotected unless you spend a lot of time outdoors. 

Check the UVI levels for your location by downloading the UVNZ app on your smartphone or check the Sun Protection Alert.

Tax deduction for sun protection gear 

If you are required to work in the sun, your employer may be able to claim a tax deduction on sun protection items such as sunscreen and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Contact Inland Revenue Te Tari Taake