Scientists Design Innovative Badge To Monitor Levels Of Sun Exposure

by Medindia Content Team on Nov 19 2007 12:46 PM

Researchers from Queensland Institute of Technology, Australia have come out with an innovative device that monitors the level of sunlight exposure by outdoor workers.

The 50-cent piece-sized badge was designed by Associate Professor Michael Kimlin, from the Australian Sun and Health Research Laboratory. This institute is based at QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation.

According to Kimlin, UV exposure is a major issue for many Queensland workplaces. The scientist stressed the importance of employers and employees undertaking the needed protection policies and practices.

Highlighting the National Skin Cancer Action Week, which runs from November 18 to 24, Kimlin emphasized that it was essential the sun safe message was not ignored in the workplace, as many workers carried out outdoor duties.

"Outdoor workers have a higher risk of skin cancer given the amount of time they spend outside exposed to UV light whether that is from direct sunlight or reflected from surrounding surfaces such as buildings, water and surfaces,” reported Professor Kimlin.

"Not only can overexposure to UV light affect workers' health, it can also lead to reduced productivity, morale and lower financial returns for the company." Professor Kimlin added.

The badge which is manufactured from polymer material is attachable to clothing and degrades when exposed to sunlight.

"It works by undergoing a photochemical reaction when exposed to UV light “, said its inventor.

"Using the badge we are able to measure the amount of sun exposure a person receives over a set period of time, whether that is an hour or a day, which is an important tool in the assessment of risk of exposure to UV radiation”, Kimlin informed.

The scientists stressed on being aware of levels of UV exposure as well as providing sun safe policies to workers.

"There are many strategies employers can implement to ensure their staff are sun protected, including wearing a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, timing of outdoor activities and fit-for-purpose clothing," Kimlin said.

Electricity company Energex is one of the organizations which has been working with QUT researchers.

Earlier in the year, a number of Energex employees began using the badges so that accurate measurements could be made of individual UV exposure levels. This was part of a research project conducted by Katja Saris, a QUT PhD student.

Energex safety adviser Brett Harrison said though company had a range of sun safety measures in place , it was happy to join in the research program.

"The research involved employees wearing the QUT developed polymer badges for three consecutive days while carrying out a range of differing work tasks," Mr. Harrison said.

"Employees were also surveyed before and after the research program to gauge their knowledge of skin cancer and the effect of UV exposure. "Given the nature of much of our work, field staff are regularly exposed to the elements so Energex has a range of controls in place for our employees.

These include supplying staff with long-sleeved work clothes, tinted eyewear, broad brim hats, sunscreen and helmets with neck flaps”, Harrison added.

Kimlin acknowledged that Energex employees adopted very good UV exposure control measures overall , as research results showed. He hailed these practices as an example for others to follow in the field of UV exposure to its employees.

"This year around 200,000 people will be diagnosed with skin cancer and 1000 will die," Kimlin was quoted.

"In Queensland, the sun is intense all year so we must protect ourselves from the sun whenever we can, especially at work”, he added.