Sunburn is when your skin is burned by UV radiation from the sun. Repeated sunburn can cause permanent skin damage and  increase the risk of wrinkles, freckles, pigmentation, skin lesions, and cancer – including malignant melanoma.

In Australia, on a summer’s day,  sunburn can occur within 15 minutes . By the time signs and symptoms of sunburn appear, skin damage has already occurred.

Farming men, women and agricultural workers are at risk of sunburn as they spend more time working outdoors during peak UV times.

The UV index scale tool  is a great way for farmers and ag workers to check when peak UV times are during the day and when they need to be SunSmart. The UV index scale can be accessed by downloading the Sun Smart app on a smart phone or for non-smartphone users – the Bureau of Meteorology website.

To prevent sunburn a combination of sun protection measures are recommended.

Slip on clothingSlop on SPF50+ or higher sunscreenSlap on a hatSeek shade and Slide on sunglassess.

Ensure  sunscreen 50 + is  available in the workshop, work utes and machinery. It is ideal to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before exposure to the sun, as this will allow time for the sunscreen to absorb: reducing dust from sticking to your skin .

To purchase a Broad-spectrum 50+ sunscreen that filters both UVA and UVB radiation. Go to our Safety Shop

Skin damage from sunburn can be mild or severe. If there is blistering near 10% of the body – seek medical advice.

For further information on sunburn treatment

Remember Sunburn prevention is best practice.

Find out more about Better Health Channel

References used for this topic page

More information:

Cancer Council Australia


National Health Service (UK)



UV & sun protection



Clinical care:

National Center for Biotechnology Information

The evidence on how to best treat sunburn in children: a common treatment dilemma

Research & reviews:

Medical Journal of Australia

Estimates of beneficial and harmful sun exposure times during the year for major Australian population centres

World Health Organization (WHO)

Ultraviolet radiation and human health

Fast facts:


  • Even minor sunburn can lead to damaged skin and skin cancer.
  • Sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes of sun exposure for a person with pale skin.
  • Protect your skin – limit exposure, especially in the middle of the day – use a SPF 30+ or 50+ Broad-spectrum sunscreen that filters both UVA and UVB radiation
  • Wear abroad brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeved shirt and trousers.
  • Find shade if you can. Plan indoor activities for the middle of the day.
  • Protect your eyes – wear sunglasses fitted with side arms.

Last updated: 25 February, 2019