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Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Ireland accounting for almost 13,000 cases annually. The number of people being diagnosed with skin cancer in Ireland is rising rapidly. Yet, in most cases, it is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Overexposure to UV radiation can damage cells in the skin and eyes, increasing your risk of skin cancer and eye damage such as cataracts. You can reduce your risk by avoiding overexposure to UV from the sun or artificial sources such as sunbeds.

If you work outdoors you are exposed to a 2-3 times higher amount of UV radiation than someone who works indoors. Overexposure to UV radiation can cause sunburn, skin and eye damage as well as skin cancer. Both occasional and long-term sun exposure can be harmful.  Exposure causing sunburn is the most damaging, but frequent non-burning exposures also significantly increase the risk of skin cance3. Those who spend all or part of the day regularly working outdoors can reduce their risk of skin cancer by protecting their skin by being SunSmart.

You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by following the Healthy Ireland SunSmart 5 S’s to protect your skin:

  • Slip on clothing that covers your skin such as long sleeves, collared t-shirts;
  • Slop on sunscreen on exposed areas, using broad-spectrum of SPF 30+ for adults and reapply regularly, more often if sweating;
  • Slap on a wide-brimmed hat, hard hat with a brim or use a neck flap that shades your face, neck and ears;
  • Seek shade – especially if outdoors between 11am and 3pm when UV rays are at their strongest. Plan your outdoor work early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the peak UV sunrays. Use trees or portable shade for break time and lunch;
  • Slide on sunglasses – Use UV protective eyewear.

How employers of outdoor workers can take part and be SunSmart

  • Include SunSmart advice as part of health and safety programmes;
  • Remind employees regularly about the importance of protecting skin from the sun’s UV radiation when working outdoors by, for example, displaying posters, providing leaflets, sharing SunSmart videos, social media and email communications;
  • Ensure that managers and supervisors act as positive role models by being SunSmart;
  • Use a SunSmart framework to strategically address skin cancer prevention, structure prevention activities and ensure sustainability;
  • Develop a solar UV protection policy (use SunSmart sample solar UV protection policy) to record how your workplace will manage solar UV exposure risk at work. This may involve doing a risk assessment and providing resources such as clothing, shade and sunscreen.

A wide range of resources have developed for employers of outdoor workers to deliver a focused approach to support SunSmart awareness and behaviours among outdoor workers all of which are available to view and download from