NSC Construction and Utilities Division news NSC Labor Division news Research/studies Workplace exposures Cancer Worker Health and Wellness

International study shows high toll of worker sun exposure


Photo: Virginia Department of Transportation/Flickr

Geneva, Switzerland — Workers exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays account for nearly a third of all non-melanoma skin cancer deaths, according to the results of a recent study.

Researchers from the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization reviewed 763 studies from 96 different countries – which included 166 million observations – to determine occupational risk for outdoor workers.

The research team estimated that 65,440 non-melanoma skin cancer deaths occurred in 2019, with 29% linked to worker sun exposure. From 2000 to 2019, skin cancer deaths attributed to UV exposure on the job increased 88%, to 18,960 from 10,088.

In a press release, ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo urges governments, employers and workers to come together to establish, implement and enforce policies and regulations that protect workers. Actions include providing shade; shifting work hours away from the middle part of the day; offering education and training; and equipping workers with sunscreen and personal protective equipment such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

“Death caused by unprotected exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation while working is largely preventable through cost-effective measures,” Houngbo said.

The study was published online in the journal Environment International.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)