PPE for outdoor workers

PPE for outdoor workers is the responsibility of every employer. The Timber Trade Industrial Association clarifies the situation for the hot season.

During the summer period, the issue of PPE for outdoor workers, particularly protection from exposure to the sun, for employees is a frequently raised topic on the TTIA enquiry line. Employees in the treecontracting industry in particular work outdoors, which can expose them to dangerous heat and sun conditions. Does that mean all outdoor workers must wear long sleeves?

There are no specific provisions in WHS legislation explicitly requiring workers to wear long sleeves if working outdoors, nor is there a specific provision in the Australian Standards.

An employer has a duty of care to protect workers’ health and safety. That involves assessing risks and putting control measures in place. If sun exposure has been identified as a risk for outdoor workers, then the risk must be managed using the hierarchy of risk control.

If personal protective equipment (in this case, long sleeves) is used to control the risk, then the company must provide long-sleeved clothing. Therefore, it depends on whether sun exposure is identified as a risk (for example, a risk of skin cancer), and what other measures are used to control the risk.

Other measures that may be used to control the risk of sun exposure include using shade awnings, reorganising the work to avoid the highest UV levels in the middle of the day, moving jobs under cover, and using sunscreen.

There are no specific provisions in WHS legislation or in the Australian Standards explicitly requiring workers to wear long sleeves if working outdoors, but an employer has a duty of care to protect workers’ health and safety. Image: Steve Lovegrove/AdobeStock.com

Useful guidelines

Safe Work Australia has published The Guide on Exposure to Solar Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR). It includes a section on ‘sun protective work clothing’, which identifies design as a consideration when selecting sunprotective clothing for outdoor workers: ‘The design should cover as much skin as possible – long pants and shirts with a collar and long sleeves provide the best sun protection.’

WorkSafe Victoria has published a guidance note Sun Protection For Construction And Other Outdoor Workers. It provides: ‘Ideally sun protection clothing for workers should consist of long sleeve shirts with collar and long trousers. Where this level of protection is not reasonably practicable, shirts with sleeves at least to the elbow and shorts at least to the knee would be a suitable alternative.’

SafeWork NSW has guidance on clothing to be worn to protect from sun exposure. Outdoor workers should wear long pants and work shirts with a collar and long sleeves to cover as much skin as possible, and this clothing should be made of lightweight, closely woven material with a UPF 50+ rating.

If personal protective equipment (in this case, long sleeves) is used to control the risk, then the company must provide long-sleeved clothing. Image: tibor13/AdobeStock.com

Professional advice available

The TTIA has a fully functioning in-house WHS unit which is there to support TTIA Tree Contractor Members nationally. The association has the long-term experience in the timber-products industry and proven record both in safety management, documentation, training and legal resources.

Should you require a WHS audit of your workplace, please contact Ken Hocking on 0418 280 335 or the TTIA Office on (02) 9264 0011. For more information on the TTIA, log on to ttia.asn.au. 

Image: TTIA
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