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From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein 

Date: June 14, 2019 


CONTACT: Kara Kane, Public Information Officer


Phone: (716) 858-4941   



Erie County Department of Health advises outdoor workers to protect skin and eyes

ERIE COUNTY, NY – For people with occupations where working outdoors is the exception, not the rule, exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can increase the risk of skin and eye damage.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that skin cancers are the most form of common cancer in the United States. An estimated one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.


The Erie County Department of Health advises people whose jobs take them outdoors to pay attention to the time and intensity of their exposure to the sun. “People who work in construction, parks and recreation, maintenance, firefighting and law enforcement, agriculture and landscaping should take care to protect their skin and eyes while working,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “That means wearing clothes and hats that shield the skin, and applying and reapplying sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection every two hours throughout the workday.”


Employers can do their part to encourage a culture of sun safety among employees. Examples include posting signage with instructions on proper sunscreen application, and providing shade when possible for breaks and lunch periods.


Eyes need protection from the sun as well, as UV damage can cause cataracts, growths on the eye, and cancer. “UV rays will reflect off concrete surfaces, metal structures, sand and bodies of water, and add to your overall sun exposure to your skin and eyes,” explained Dr. Burstein. “And even on cloudy and overcast days, those UV rays stream through the atmosphere.”


Sunburns can appear up to four hours after overexposure to the sun, and can cause significant pain and discomfort. “Mild sunburns can cause wrinkling, age spots and skin damage over time, and severe sunburns can cause blistering and lead to infection,” said Dr. Burstein. “Sunburns are preventable by staying aware of your sun exposure and taking steps to protect your skin before you walk out the door.”




Make Sun Safety Part of Your Routine

Wear a lightweight long-sleeved shirt and put on a sunglasses and broad-brimmed hat that shades the face, ears and back of neck before starting any outdoor activity.


Apply and Reapply Sunscreen

Spread sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher and UVA/UVB protection on any exposed skin, paying special attention to ears, the back of the neck, the back of hands and all parts of the face. Sunscreen’s protection wears off after about two hours, and after swimming or excessive sweating, so be prepared to reapply.


Adjust Your Schedule, if Possible

UV rays are strongest from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. When possible, schedule outdoor tasks for early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is not at its peak.


Create Shade                                                                                 

Umbrellas work to protect you, rain or shine. Consider bringing small pop-up tents or finding other ways to create shady areas for lunch periods and other breaks.




CDC, Sun Safety Tips for Employers:


CDC, Sun Safety Tips for Families:


CDC, Skin Cancer Resources:


New York State Department of Health, Sun Safety: