Sun Protection

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Outdoor Work, Sports and Leisure

Working outdoors

Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to UV radiation. Outdoor workers, because they are exposed to the elements more often than indoor workers, are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Don’t be tempted

It’s a temptation for outdoor workers to strip off when the weather gets hot and the sun appears. But our skin is not designed for prolonged exposure to the sun, so keep your shirt on!

Over exposure to the sun

In the short term over-exposure causes sunburn which is painful and unattractive. In severe cases it can cause blistering of the skin, which makes work a lot less comfortable.

Long term over-exposure speeds up skin ageing and can cause skin cancer. Each year in Northern Ireland there are around 3,780 cases of skin cancer and on average about 50 people die from malignant melanoma and from non-melanoma skin cancer.

Substances that increase sensitivity to UV rays

A number of medications can increase susceptibility to skin damage from UV radiation. These include some antibiotics, drugs for high blood pressure, anti-depressants, some medication for skin conditions, drugs that suppress the immune system (e.g. those used after organ transplants) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.

Check with a doctor about prescribed medicines and take extra sun protection precautions if taking such medication.

Some people develop photosensitivity to UV radiation as a result of contact with certain substances such as pitch, coal tar, dyes, chlorinated hydrocarbons, wood preservatives and some plants. Photosensitivity is an abnormal reaction in the skin or eyes and extra precautions should be taken if exposure to these substances is a possibility.

If you are experiencing skin sensitivity contact your GP or your work’s doctor for advice.

Protect your skin when working outdoors

  • Cover up – wear a hat that protects your head, ears and neck
  • Keep your shirt on – wear loose t-shirts or long sleeve shirts
  • Sunglasses – UVA and UVB protection
  • Sunscreen – minimum SPF 15 and 4 star rating. Apply generously and reapply often. Always use on ears, neck and face, even with a hat
  • Find a shady spot – if possible work in a shaded area and especially at lunchtime (strongest UV radiation) take your break in the shade. Even on cloudy days, UV rays can filter through
  • Many people call the skin burning they receive on cloudy days ‘wind burn’ – this is not correct, it is caused by UV rays filtering through the cloud cover causing sunburn