Be Sunsible – Protecting Outdoor Workers

Who’s at Risk?

Outdoor workers are exposed to 6-8 times more ultraviolet radiation (UVR) than indoor workers.

This makes them 2.5 to 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancers. Because sun exposure can be an unavoidable element of outdoor work, precautions should be taken to protect these workers. Many people do not realize the harmful effects of the sun on exposed skin during winter months, yet ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun can cause damage year round.


Occupations that are especially at risk:


Building and Construction Workers
Oil and gas and mining workers
Agricultural, farming and horticultural workers
Municipal employees



Why invest in workplace Sun Safety?

In Canada, skin cancer accounts for approximately 33% of all new cancer cases and UVR exposure is the primary cause of up to 90% of all skin cancers. Melanoma skin cancer is the 7th most common cancer in Alberta (about 600 adults were diagnosed in 2012 1-2).

With an estimated 778,500 Albertans potentially exposed to UVR through their occupation alone, prevention is the best tool to lessen the health, financial and legal impacts of sun exposure.  

Every year, the direct and indirect costs of skin cancer in Alberta total more than $7.6 million3. Sun safety programs can reduce the cost of ill health AND maximize your Return on Investment (ROI).

For every $1 spent on skin cancer prevention, a workplace can save up to $7.80 in health care costs4.

The average melanoma patient loses 28 days from work per diagnosis3.

Non-melanoma skin cancer accounts for an average of 14 workdays lost per diagnosis3.

Between 2005 and 2012 (inclusive) there have been over 100 accepted sun-related WCB claims in Alberta.

In 2008, an economic analysis estimated that the direct cost of occupation related skin cancers in Alberta per year was approximately $4.4 million, with an additional $3.2 million in indirect costs3.

Sun Safety Program Benefits

It’s good business to protect the health and productivity of your workforce by including sun safety as a key component of your health and safety program.

There are considerable benefits and cost savings associated with the provision of sun protection and appropriate education, including:

Fewer absence days caused by the associated conditions of sunburn.

A healthier and better informed workforce results in higher productivity.

Protection from legal claims and litigation.

Lowered health care and insurance costs.

While outdoor workers need to take steps to protect themselves from UVR exposure, employers also have an equal responsibility to protect the health and productivity of their workforce.

For these reasons, the development of sun safety controls, provision of personal protective equipment, education, training and policies by employers, in consultation with employees, should be considered essential to reduce the burden associated with sun related health problems in outdoor workers.

The Be Sunsible program is a step-by-step program that provides workplaces with tools and resources to inspire and empower employers and outdoor workers to adopt sun safety best practices.


  1. Alberta Health Services. (2010). Review of Cancer and Chronic Disease Prevention in the Workplace: A situational analysis of cancer and chronic disease prevention for HPDIP workplace wellness programming. Calgary, Alberta: Alberta Health Services. Available at
  2. Surveillance and Reporting: 2012 Report on Cancer Statistics in Alberta. Edmonton: CancerControl AB, Alberta Health Services, 2015. Accessed at:
  3. Orenstein, M. R., Dall, T., Curley, P., Chen, J., Tamburrini, A. L., & Petersen, J. (2010). The economic burden of occupational cancers in Alberta. Calgary, AB: Alberta Health Services.
  4. Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. (2010). The Economic Burden of Skin Cancer in Canada: Current and Projected. Final Report.
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