Cancer Society issues skin cancer alert to builders, farmers and other outdoor workers

Leinster Express Reporter


Leinster Express Reporter

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Builders, farmers and others who work outdoors warned to take sun protection measures because they have a big chance of dying from skin cancer due to their work.

The Irish Cancer Society issued the alert as it warned that almost a quarter of skin cancer deaths in Ireland are found among workers in construction, outdoor and farming industry.

The Society has teamed up with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) to urge outdoor workers and employers to be extra vigilant during summer to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

They say the society's The SunSmart Code has some simple steps.

SEEK SHADE: When UV rays are at their strongest – generally between 11am and 3pm.
COVER UP: By wearing a shirt with a collar and long shorts. Also wear a hat that gives shade to your face, neck and ears.
WEAR WRAPAROUND SUNGLASSES: Make sure they give UV protection.
SLOP ON SUNSCREEN: Use sunscreen with SPF30 or higher and UVA protection 20 minutes before going outside and re-apply every two hours – more often if swimming or perspiring.
CHECK the UV index –
Keep babies under six months out of the sun.

Employer Protection Measures

The Health and Safety Authority have a short guide for employers of outdoor workers and the employees themselves on sun protection. There are a range of protective measures as follows:

If possible, plan outdoor work in sunny weather to limit duration and intensity of employee exposure to direct sunlight (11:00 to 15:00 sun rays are most intense)
Limit duration of exposure if possible when UV index is high (3 or above)
Give information to employees about dangers of sun exposure
Inform employees about the Sun Smart code
Educate and encourage employees to self-check skin for signs of skin cancer
Check UV index, if 3 or above the risk of skin damage is greater sunsmart/uv-index
Ensure breaks are taken out of direct sunlight
Encourage employees to cover up, keep clothing on with sleeves down and collars up, wear clothing with high ultraviolet protection factor  and  wear a hat that covers the ears and back of the neck
Ensure employees do not strip off clothing when it is sunny
Provide sun screen, SPF of at least 30 and UVA label on bottle
Provide sun glasses

Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager with the Irish Cancer Society said figures from the CSO show that in 2016, we had over 60 deaths in Ireland which were related to sun exposure at work.

"That is more than one death a week. The dangers of skin cancer in these industries have often been neglected because the risk of accidental death and injury on the job is considered higher and more immediate. However long-term exposure to the invisible hazard of the sun’s ultraviolet rays puts outdoor workers at a high risk of skin cancer.

“We are really pleased to be teaming up with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions this summer to encourage employers and employees to take the necessary sun protection behaviours to reduce the number of workers dying from a very preventable cancer. 

“Every year in Ireland, it is estimated that almost 12,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer, and figures show that more men than women were diagnosed. Getting repeated sunburn throughout life increases the risk of skin cancer. Half of all adults experienced sunburn in the last year and a third of men have experienced sunburn while working outdoors, so we asking people to take the necessary steps to avoid sunburn and to be SunSmart at work,” he said in a statement.


ICTU General Secretary Patricia King said the union movement is really pleased to be teaming up with the Irish Cancer Society to raise awareness of skin cancer among outdoor workers.

She said Congress represents over 135,000 people whose work is characterised as being predominantly or occasionally outdoors. This includes union members in sectors such as construction, horticulture, quarrying, postal services, environment, tourism, recreation and education.

“Workers need to take every precaution in protecting their skin while exposed to the sun, and should be supported in doing so by their employers. We would also call on employers to put in place robust policies to ensure that outdoor workers, such as builders, postal workers or fisherman are adequately protected. At a minimum, they should be following the Health and Safety Authority guidelines. We would encourage all of our members to ensure they are being SunSmart this summer. It could save a life," she said.