Outdoor workers urged to be SunSmart

They are a high-risk group for skin cancer
  • Deborah Condon

Outdoor workers, such as builders and farmers, are being reminded of the importance of staying safe in the sun.

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ireland, with over 11,000 new cases here every year. This figure is predicted to more than double by the year 2045.

Most cases of skin cancer are preventable. The key is to protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources, such as sunbeds.

However, outdoor workers are particularly vulnerable to developing skin cancer because they are exposed to high levels of UV rays from the sun for long periods, even on cloudy days. As a result, they are a high-risk group for skin cancer.

Recent figures from the Central Statistics Office suggested that up to one-quarter of all skin cancer deaths in Ireland are among outdoor workers.

In an effort to encourage outdoor workers to protect their skin, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), Healthy Ireland and the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) have joined together to raise awareness of this issue.

According to the CIF's director of safety and training, Dermot Carey, those working in construction and agriculture "are highly prone" to skin cancer.

"While COVID-19 remains to the forefront of our thinking about wellbeing, we must not lose sight of other hazards in the workplace, not least the potential for skin cancer. People working outdoors need to be aware of these hazards, the associated risk, and the precautionary measures they should take to protect their skin, from spring through autumn," Mr Carey said.

Outdoor workers can protect themselves by following the five S's of the SunSmart code:
-Slip on clothing that covers your skin, such as long sleeves and collared t-shirts

-Slop on sunscreen: Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply 20 minutes before going outside and re-apply every two hours - more often if perspiring

-Slap on a wide brimmed hat

-Seek shade, especially if outdoors between 11am to 3pm when UV rays are at their strongest. If possible schedule outdoor work before 11am or after 3pm.

-Slide on wraparound glasses.

"We know those who work outdoors are a high risk group for the development of skin cancer. However, we have seen in Australia how simple steps can protect outdoor workers' skin. Whether you work in farming, construction, fishery, gardening, postal, defence forces, tourism or any other job outdoors, protect your skin from UV rays to reduce your risk of skin cancer," added Dr Triona McCarthy, director of public health at the NCCP.


Discussions on this topic are now closed.