Can you get worker’s compensation for skin cancer?

Exposure to the sun’s UV radiation is a well-known occupational health risk. Workers who develop skin cancer as a result of the nature of their jobs, may be entitled to worker’s compensation.

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. According to the Cancer Council, skin cancer is the leading cause of workplace cancer compensation claims in Australia, accounting for 77 per cent of all cancer claims.

Occupations that have the highest risk of developing skin cancer include farmers, gardeners, builders, road workers and many others who regularly work outdoors.

Skin cancer can take years to develop and may appear long after a worker retires. Even so, workers are entitled to worker’s compensation for skin cancer if they can show that it was caused by work-related exposure to the sun’s radiation.

Preventing skin cancer at work

Employers needs to provide their workers with a safe place to work and that includes protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Ways that employers can help to mitigate the risk of dangerous exposure to the sun’s UV rays include:

  • Providing shade for workers when outdoors
  • Protecting workers from the sun by providing sunscreen, SPF 50+ clothing, and hats
  • Training and supervision to ensure that workers adopt sun-safe practices
  • Reducing an individual’s exposure to the sun by rotating tasks
  • Rescheduling outdoor work to the early and later times of the day to avoid the midday sun

The three types of skin cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

Basal cell carcinomas develop in the outer layer of the skin. They can appear as scaly and dry skin or as a pearly lump. They usually form on parts of the body that have seen the most sun, such as your face, head, neck and back. These account for the majority of non-melanoma skin cancers (around 70%).

Squamous cell carcinomas account for the rest of the non-melanoma skin cancers. Again, this type of skin cancer usually appears on areas of the body that have received the most sun. They can appear like a sore, a red scaly spot, or a lump that grows quickly.

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Commonly, the first sign of a melanoma is the appearance of a new dark spot on the skin, or a change in an existing mole.

Identifying skin cancer symptoms

Early detection of skin cancer is vital before it gets a chance to spread. You need to regularly check your skin for skin cancer symptoms. Signs to watch out for include:

  • Scabs that refuse to heal
  • New moles that appear on your skin
  • New growths that form on your skin
  • Moles that change size or colour
  • Skin that is discoloured

The ABCDE method is commonly used by dermatologists to identify dangerous melanomas. Check moles for:

  • A – Asymmetrical shape: Normal moles are usually symmetrical, but melanomas are commonly irregular in shape
  • B – Border: Melanomas have uneven borders
  • C – Colour: Moles that have more than one colour or different shades of the same colour can be a sign of melanoma
  • D – Diameter: Moles that are larger than six millimetres should be checked
  • E – Evolution: If you notice that a mole has changed recently in colour or size, then you should see a dermatologist for a skin check-up

In any case, it’s a good idea to see your doctor for advice on early identification of skin cancer symptoms and to have your skin medically examined on a regular basis.

Worker’s compensation for skin cancer

Worker’s compensation for skin cancer is available for workers who have developed the condition as a result of their occupation. This takes the form of weekly payments under the Worker’s Compensation Scheme.

Workers may also be able to make a common law claim for work injuries, if it can be shown that the injury was due to the negligence of their employer. These claims are made in the court system and a successful claim will result in a lump sum payment.

Speak to an expert work injury lawyer

It’s important to speak to an experienced work injury lawyer if you are seeking to make a successful skin cancer claim for worker’s compensation and work injury damages.

Our friendly team at NSW Compensation Lawyers can assess your claim and provide you with the right advice on what to do. Call us today on (02) 9601 0088.

Further information

See the Cancer Council website for more information and support about skin cancer, its early detection and treatment at www.cancer.org.au.

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