A new YouGov report, released as a part of a SunSmart campaign from the Australian Government and Cancer Council, has revealed that Australia’s tradies aren’t acting to protect themselves from the sun despite high exposure risks. 

Nearly a quarter of tradies surveyed (24 per cent) only rarely or occasionally wear sunscreen in the summer months. In winter this drops even more, with almost half of tradies surveyed (46 per cent) only rarely or occasionally applying sunscreen.

Unsurprisingly, almost six in ten (58 per cent) Aussie tradies surveyed know colleagues who have had skin cancer. While around half the tradies are confident explaining their favourite sport (52 per cent) or how to cook the perfect steak (47 per cent) almost three quarters (73 per cent) admit they can’t explain how UV works, or its relationship to ‘Australia’s national cancer’.

With nine in ten tradespeople (89 per cent) surveyed spending time outdoors on a typical workday, and over four in ten (42 per cent) spending more than four hours working outside, the Australian Government and Cancer Council are urging tradies to protect themselves against UV whenever they are outdoors.

The SunSmart campaign urges Australians to be SunSmart and remember the five Ss – Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, and Slide – whenever the UV is three or above.

Chief Executive of Cancer Council Australia, Dr Tanya Buchanan, noted Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and regular outdoor work means that tradies are at an even higher risk than those working indoors.

“Tradies are known to have high standards when it comes to safety on-site, but this data shows many aren’t fully considering sun safety as a part of their daily routines,” Dr Buchanan said. 

“Despite two-thirds of respondents (66 per cent) being concerned about developing skin cancer, over a fifth (22 per cent) don’t believe sunscreen is necessary every day.

“A few minutes each day to follow the five Ss can help prevent skin cancer caused by UV – regardless of the time of year – so it’s important for tradies to remember to be SunSmart.”

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said, “The Australian Government has invested in this Cancer Council campaign to help remind Australians of the five Ss – only two more than the vintage Slip, Slop, Slap, and give tradies and tradie organisations the tools they need to protect themselves from the dangers of UV.”

A free SunSmart Tradie Toolbox has been developed for tradies to refer to before they head onto job sites and throughout the day, with SunSmart messaging that can be quickly and easily downloaded and displayed next to safety signage on job sites.

Activates Construction owners Adam and Tarah Hastie welcomed the addition of the SunSmart Tradie Toolbox, saying some simple messaging for tradies to see each day as they arrived on-site was something everyone in the building and construction industry could support.

“It’s so important to make sure your hat, sunnies and sunscreen are packed as part of your everyday routine before you head off to work,” Mr Hastie said.

“I’m constantly reminding myself and my tradies to be careful and remember that safety comes first on-site – and that includes being SunSmart.”

Ms Hastie added that there was a range of ages, backgrounds, and personalities across Activates job sites, but the common theme of safety was non-negotiable.

“We take our work seriously and we have fun along the way, but above all, we want to see everyone arrive and leave work safely. A few minutes each day reapplying sunscreen or putting on some sunnies goes a long way to keeping you safe now and in the future,” Mr Hastie said. 

Currently, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.

In 2021, it was estimated 16,878 people would be diagnosed with melanoma and approximately 1,400 Australians lose their lives to melanoma each year. Without action, between now and 2030, more than 14,000 Australians will lose their lives to melanoma. 

The digital tradie toolbox is available to download from with information and reminders of the five Ss that can be easily used on job sites, next to existing safety messaging.  Tradies – and all Australians – are also encouraged to download the free SunSmart App to check the UV in their local area.

The announcement of the digital tradie toolbox is the latest awareness program as part of a national skin cancer prevention campaign funded by the Australian Government, encouraging Australians to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide whenever the UV is three or above.

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YouGov research highlights:

From the 600 tradespeople surveyed

  • 89 per cent spend time outdoors on a typical workday, with 42 per cent of those spending more than four hours working outside. Amongst the 89 per cent Queensland tradies (49 per cent) and New South Wales tradies (44 per cent) are more likely to spend more than four hours outdoors as part of their job compared to South Australia tradies (44 per cent)
  • 96 per cent  have at least heard of the ‘UV index’ but only 27 per cent felt confident explaining how UV works and at what level to protect themselves. Instead, they’re more confident explaining the rules of their favourite sport (52 per cent), how to cook a perfect steak on the barbecue (47 per cent), and how to set up the surround sound for their TV (40 per cent)
  • Only 69 per cent of tradies surveyed from New South Wales and 70 per cent in Queensland said they were very, or somewhat, aware of the UV Index and check it. Compared to 77 per cent in Victoria, 84 per cent in Western Australia and 87 per cent in South Australia
  • 83 per cent  of those who were very/somewhat aware of the UV Index were not able to correctly identify the sun protection needed when UV levels hit three or above
  • 34 per cent have either been treated for skin cancer or another suspicious spot themselves and 58 per cent knew of other tradespeople who have had skin cancer. Of those who live in Queensland, most (67 per cent) know other tradespeople who have had skin cancer compared to those from New South Wales (54 per cent) and South Australia (50 per cent). Many Queensland tradies surveyed (60 per cent) are also very/somewhat concerned about developing skin cancer
  • 46 per cent say they rarely/occasionally wear sunscreen during the winter months, and 50 per cent say they only rarely/occasionally wear sunscreen on days that are cloudy or overcast despite the fact the UV radiation can be high on cool or cold days. During summer months, 25 per cent of tradies surveyed say they rarely/occasionally wear sunscreen when working outdoors. For those that do wear sunscreen when working outdoors, 16 per cent say they never reapply throughout the day 
  • 50 per cent say the main reason they don’t wear sunscreen is they forget to put it on, 22 per cent say they don’t believe it’s necessary every day, 21 per cent day it’s too greasy for them, and 18 per cent say it’s an inconvenience
  • 27 per cent of tradies surveyed say that sun safety isn’t encouraged by their employer on their worksite

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