Contractors are being urged to protect themselves from harmful sun exposure following research showing that two per cent of deadly skin cancer cases in Britain come from working outdoors.

Researchers at Imperial College London estimate that 48 deaths and 241 cases of melanoma skin cancer are caused each year by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun while at work. Construction workers accounted for the largest proportion of these cases (44% of deaths), followed by agriculture workers (23% of deaths). Their findings were published earlier this year in the British Journal of Cancer.

ECIS, the employee benefits company for the contracting sector, is reminding contractors to protect themselves and their employees from harmful sun exposure as we head into the summer months.

Vicki Leslie, Client Relationship Manager for ECIS, said: "Covering up and slapping on the sun cream is essential for any contractor working outside, especially if they have fair or freckled skin, red or fair hair, or a large number of moles. The risk of being burnt is not just when the sun is out, skin can burn without adequate protection on cloudy days too.

"According to Cancer Research UK, over 90% of UV Rays can pass through light cloud so it's wise to keep exposed areas covered and sun block applied from April through to September when the sun's rays are strongest."

Tips on how to reduce the risk of sun exposure include:

  • Cover up: Keep your shirt on to prevent the risk of sun burn
  • Wear a hat: Wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the back of your neck
  • Stay in the shade: During your breaks, head for the shade to give your skin some relief
  • Slap it on: Always wear a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF15 on any exposed skin with a high star rating.
  • Reapply: Remember to reapply sun cream every few hours
  • Wear shades: Don't forget to protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • Get it checked: Check your skin for unusual moles or spots. See your GP immediately if a mole changes shape, size or colour or starts itching or bleeding.

Check the British Association of Dermatologists' website for further information at