Campaign Helps Outdoor Workers Beat the Heat—and Skin Cancer

Photo of an outdoor worker.

Skin cancer is a serious risk for outdoor workers.

When you think of the dangers that outdoor workers face, cancer may not be at the top of the list. But the risk is very real.

“Overexposure to the sun is the most common cause of skin cancer,” says Armand Sabitoni, labor co-chairman of the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North Americaexternal icon (the Fund). “With much of their time spent working outdoors, our members are at particularly high risk.”

The Fund helps outdoor workers prevent skin cancer by educating them and their employers about sun safety. Its Sun Sense Plusexternal icon campaign explains that workers can protect their skin both on and off the job by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and protective clothing, and employers can provide shade for workers.

The campaign offers free posters and short publications about sun safety, as well as sunscreen, lip balm, and neck flaps. Products are given out on job sites and at trainings and other events. Posters are displayed at training centers, union halls, job sites, and employee meeting rooms. Publications are handed out, used in presentations, and mailed to members of the Laborers’ International Union of North Americaexternal icon (LIUNA), which the Fund supports.

Campaign Expands to Focus on Other Summer Hazards

In 2015, the Sun Sense Plus campaign started helping workers steer clear of dangers of working outside in the summer besides skin cancer. Heat illness can lead to deadly heat stroke. Ticks and mosquitoes can spread diseases. The campaign provides information about these topics, as well as cooling cloths, insect repellent towelettes, and tick keys (removers).

“Skin cancer prevention and heat stress prevention go hand in hand, so addressing these two hazards at one time aligns with the Fund’s mission and supports taking a Total Worker Health approach,” says Lisa Sabitoni, the Fund’s executive director. Since 2015, the Fund has been an affiliate of CDC’s Total Worker Health® program.

Orders for products and print materials have risen each year since the campaign started in 2000. “We’re happy to see that it’s catching on and people are getting the message,” says Noel Borck, fund management co-chairman of the Fund. This shows that workers and employers “are making good choices in guarding against sun damage,” he says.