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Occupational Sun Exposure Hazards

Be aware of the hazards in your workplace to avoid developing skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK with exposure to the sun's UV rays being the main cause. Consider this key information to help you effectively manage and mitigate the risk against your workers developing this condition.

Here, you'll find out more about the causes, effects, and symptoms of sun exposure, to help you recognise the signs.

Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation

Ultraviolet radiation is a type of energy produced by the sun and some artificial sources, such as arc welding and solariums.

Sunlight is important for us as it:

  • Helps our body to create Vitamin D that’s important for bone development and muscles
  • Stimulates blood circulation and cell formation
  • Boosts our immune function
  • Enhances our general well-being

However, two types of UV light are proven to contribute to the risk of skin cancer:

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) has a longer wavelength and is associated with skin aging
  • Ultraviolet B (UVB) has a shorter wavelength and is associated with skin burning

While UVA and UVB rays differ in how they affect the skin, they both do harm. Unprotected exposure damages the DNA in the skin cells, producing genetic defects or mutations that can lead to skin cancer as well as premature aging.

UVA and UVB rays can also cause eye damage, including cataracts and eyelid cancers.

Know The Risks

There's a misconception that the weather in the UK isn’t sunny enough to cause cancer.

The reality is that even on a cloudy day you’re still at risk whilst working outdoors.

Up to 80% of the sun's harmful rays can:

  • Pass through clouds
  • Bounce off reflective surfaces
  • Penetrate through glass
  • Pass through loosely woven material
  • Bounce off reflective surfaces

The strength of solar radiation isn't connected to temperature - it cannot be seen or felt.

Blue sky with sunshine between clouds


Sunburn is skin damage and the body's response to try to repair it. It's important that your workers check themselves regularly, monthly is preferable. If any of your employees are in doubt, as them to consult their doctor as soon as possible if they notice any of the below. Spotting skin cancer early could save a life!

  • A new, unexplained skin change that appears suddenly
  • A large brownish spot with darker speckles
  • A mole that changes in colour, size or feel or that bleeds
  • A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue, or black blue
  • A painful lesion that itches or burns

ABCDE of Melanoma

Who's At Risk?

Outdoor workers have a higher-than-average risk of developing skin cancer, yet only two thirds don’t realise they're at risk.

It doesn't matter what skin colour you have; everyone is at risk.

People are particularly at risk if they have:

  • Fair skin that's susceptible to burning easily
  • A large amount of moles - more than 50
  • A close relative who has had melanoma
  • Exposed to welding arc

More from Arco

Recommended Products

Our range of sun protection lotions and dispensers are ideal for outdoor workers who need to protect themselves against damaging ultraviolet rays.

All Expert Advice