Skin Cancer Prevention Guidelines for Outdoor Workers

Sun is the primary cause of skin cancer, and that means that construction laborers, who work outside most of the time, are at high risk for this disease. However, because their risk of accidental death and injury on the job is not only higher, but also more immediate, the dangers of skin cancer in this industry have often been neglected.

Follow these guidelines for outdoor workers below to stay safe in the sun:


Wear sun protective clothing and cover your skin. Long-sleeved, closely-woven shirts and long trousers or skirts provide the best protection. Avoid clothes that you can see light through. If light is getting through, the ultraviolet radiation is getting through as well. If shorts are worn, a pair that approaches the knee will offer more protection than a shorter pair. A collar will protect the skin on the back of the neck.

A hat will help keep the sun off the face, neck and ears, and protect bald spots. Broad-brimmed hats are best, but the brim should be at least 3 inches wide. If a lot of bending is required, have a flap on the back of the hat, which will keep the sun off the back of the neck.Hardhats can have a flap or extra brim fitted to them.

To protect your eyes, be sure to wear sunglasses or safety glasses that filter out UV rays.


Use an SPF 15 or higher water-resistant sunscreen before going outdoors and reapply every two hours. If sweating freely, reapply more often. Choose a gel, stick, or lotion form of sunscreen according to personal preference; no one form is more effective than another. Make sure the face, lips, neck, ears, arms and back of the hands are protected.

Some substances increase the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. These include industrial chemicals such as asphalt and diphenyls, and some medications. A water-resistant sunscreen will help give protection when there is likely to be skin contact with these substances. Also, ultraviolet radiation bounces off water, sand, concrete, light-colored surfaces and snow. People who work near these areas will need to take extra care.


Outside jobs can sometimes be done inside or moved to a shady location. A temporary shelter can be erected or trees and buildings used for protection. A shady spot should be available for lunch and coffee breaks. Reorganize the job so tasks requiring outdoor work get done in the morning before 10 am and after 4 pm, to avoid the hours of greatest sun intensity.

Updated on April 21, 2016