Focus on workers’ sun safety

Cancer Focus Northern Ireland and the Public Health Agency launched a new sun safety package for outdoor workers in April 2015.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in Northern Ireland, with around 3,550 cases every year.

Farmers, builders, grounds staff and postal workers are just some of the people at higher risk of sun damage due to the length of time they spend  outdoors.

Early detection

Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus NI, said: “We are delighted to be able to launch this new initiative which takes the form of a sun safety resource pack for employers and employees which provides guidance on skin cancer prevention and early detection.”

Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health at the PHA, said: “Everyone is at risk of sun damage, but certain groups such as people who spend a significant amount of time working outdoors are particularly at risk.

“We’ve been working with outdoor workers to develop arrangements that will help promote sun safety. Local employers and representatives have been really enthusiastic and have worked with us in developing a range of materials to raise awareness of sun exposure.”


Ian Young, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, said: “We have signed up to using the new policy and resources as we want to protect our workers’ health.  Skin cancer is a real concern to our employees who work outside.

“This new initiative will improve knowledge and awareness of sun safety issues in the outdoor work sector considerably. Everyone who works outdoors needs to think about sun protection, even on cooler, breezy days.”

Care in the sun infographicSpeaking at the launch Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said: “Skin cancer is an increasingly serious, and largely preventative, public health issue.

“DHSSPS published a ten-year Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy and Action Plan in 2011. The strategy is relevant to the population as a whole, but also identifies outdoor workers as a priority group requiring particular action.

“This package is another important step towards achieving the goal of reducing the incidence of skin cancer, and deaths from it, among people in Northern Ireland.”

Top tips

There are a number of steps that will protect against the sun’s harmful rays:

  • Wear a long sleeved top, sunglasses and a hat with a brim or flap that protects the ears and neck.
  • On exposed skin use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 for UVB protection, and 4 star for UVA protection. Extra care and a higher SPF factor may be needed if you have paler or freckled skin. Apply liberally 30 minutes before going out in the sun and re-apply at least every two hours.
  • Be sure to cover areas which are sometimes missed, such as the lips, ears, around the eyes, neck, scalp and backs of hands.
  • Where possible take your breaks in the shade especially when the sun is at its strongest – generally 11am to 3pm.

The damage caused by the sun can accumulate over time and may lead to skin cancer, so it’s important to check your skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. If you notice any changes to a mole or patch of normal skin, tell your doctor, who may refer you for further assessment or treatment.

For further information on sun safety when working outdoors see www.careinthesun.org If you’re concerned about skin cancer you can also call the Cancer Focus NI free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the charity’s nurses on helpline@cancerfocusni.org.


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