The workers - usually men - have proved resistant to health education efforts to persuade them to cover up and to use sunscreen, and they remain one of the groups most at risk from skin cancer, particularly non-malignant forms.
Now local authorities are being encouraged to overcome the stubborn attitudes of workers by focusing on one particular worker with influence over his peers. New guidelines published yesterday by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Health Education Authority cite the example of a "charismatic" refuse collector in North Yorkshire who persuaded his colleagues to play safe in the sun.
Katie Aston, the HEA's skin-cancer campaign manager, said the authorities had a responsibility to all outdoor workers, whether employed directly or by contractors. She urged them to develop prevention policies and adopt flexible working hours so workers could avoid the hottest parts of the day. Providing extra shade - by planting more trees or building shelters - is also recommended for the use of both workers and the public.
Sunbeds are also targeted as "an unnecessary source of UVR [ultra-violet radiation] which can be eliminated", according to the guidelines. "It is potentially confusing for the public to be made aware of the link between UVR exposure and skin cancer, and then to find that their local health and leisure centre offers sunbed facilities."
Skin cancer is the second most common cancer in the United Kingdom, with more than 40,000 new cases and 2,000 deaths annually.Reuse content