Solar UV Radiation Occupational Exposures

Solar UV Radiation Occupational Exposures


Exposure to solar UVR may be dermal or ocular in occupational settings.

CAREX Canada estimates that approximately 1.5 million Canadians are likely exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation in their workplaces.


All outdoor occupations have a potential for exposure to solar radiation.[1] The largest industrial groups exposed include the construction industry, farming, and services to buildings and dwellings. The largest occupational groups exposed are farmers and farm managers, construction trades helpers, and landscaping and ground maintenance labourers.

Other job categories with a potential for exposure to solar UVR include logging, fishing, open-pit mining, road building, and maintenance, as well as athletes, maintenance workers, pipeline workers, military personnel and police, ski instructors, lifeguards, oilfield workers, postal carriers, surveyors, sailors, and railway track workers.[1,2]  Indoor workers receive only 10-20% of outdoor workers’ annual exposure to solar UVR.[3]

Prevalence Estimate

Results show that approximately 1.5 million Canadians (nearly 1 in 10 workers) are potentially exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) at work; 82% of these workers are male. The largest industrial group exposed is construction (all types aggregated together), followed by farms, and services to buildings and dwellings.

When UVR exposure is examined by occupation, the largest exposed groups are farmers and farm managers (150,000), construction trades helpers (125,000), and landscaping and ground maintenance labourers (115,000).

Workers exposed to solar UVR by industry


Workers exposed to solar UVR by region

Click the second tab to view total number of workers exposed.

* = < 50 workers

Level of exposure

In total, approximately 1.5 million Canadians are exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) in their workplaces. The majority of workers exposed to solar UVR are in the high exposure category. A very large number of solar UVR-exposed workers are at risk for high exposure.

Level of Exposure by Industry

Identifying industries with either 1) workers exposed to high levels of solar UVR or 2) a larger number of workers exposed to solar UVR is important in guiding cancer prevention efforts to prioritize exposed groups and target resources most effectively.

The table below shows the number of workers exposed by industry group and level of exposure to solar UVR. These results highlight industries with the most number of workers, as well as industries with the highest levels of exposure. Data for those industries with at least 35,000 workers exposed is shown. Solar UVR exposure is most often high in the largest exposed groups. On farms, 98% of the workers are in the highest category of exposure, meaning those workers are expected to be outdoors ≥75% of their workday. In contrast, in Other Specialty Trade Contracting (a division of the construction industry), most workers are exposed at a moderate level. Depending on the goals of a prevention campaign, exposure reduction in the large industrial group might be a useful strategy, or reducing exposure to those at highest risk of exposure could be seen as a priority.

*Numbers may not add up due to rounding



Methods and Data

Our Occupational Approach page outlines the general approach used to calculate prevalence and exposure level estimates for workplace exposures.

Defining Exposure to Solar Radiation

Exposure to solar radiation (UV) is defined broadly as physical exposure at work to the sun that is likely to exceed typical non-occupational exposure (not including heavy recreational sunbathers). It does not include exposure to artificial exposures of UV radiation (i.e. tanning beds, exposures due to welding, etc.). Artificial UV exposures have also been examined by CAREX Canada and estimates for occupational exposures are available on the website.

Data Sources and Exposure Assessment Method

To develop estimates of both the prevalence and levels of solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure, we used a skin cancer prevention workbook developed by the SunSmart program at Cancer Council Australia1 to identify jobs at high risk of exposure. To create the Low and Moderate categories of exposure, we used websites that describe tasks by job title and include information on whether or not the job includes outdoor work (and how much).2,3 Detailed description of data sources and exposure assessment methods are published as a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

For solar UVR exposure, these categories of exposure are:

Category 1: Low Exposure

A group of workers (people in the same job category) is put in this exposure category if job description websites and literature review shows that outdoor work is uncommon for the job title.

Category 2: Moderate Exposure

A group of workers is put in this exposure category if:

  1. A job entails both indoor and outdoor work, and all workers in that job are required to work outdoors at least some of the time, OR
  2. A job has some people who work outdoors and some who work indoors.

Category 3: High Exposure

A group of workers is put in this exposure category if they are expected to be outside ≥75% of their workday. These workers were identified using occupational skin cancer prevention tools used to target workers at high risk of exposure to the sun’s rays.


  1. Cancer Council Australia’s Skin Cancer Committee. Skin cancer and outdoor work: A guide for employers. Victoria, Australia: The Cancer Council Victoria 2007:1-31.
  2. Alberta Learning Information Service. OCCinfo: Alberta Occupational Profiles. (2012).
  3. Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Ontario Job Futures Program, Job Profiles. (2012). 

1. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Skin Cancer and Sunlight (2015)
3. World Health Organization (WHO), World Meteorological Organization, United Nations Environment Programme, Internal Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation ProtectionGlobal Solar UV Index: A Practical Guide (2002) (PDF)

Subscribe to our newsletters

The CAREX Canada team offers two regular newsletters: the biannual e-Bulletin summarizing information on upcoming webinars, new publications, and updates to estimates and tools; and the monthly Carcinogens in the News, a digest of media articles, government reports, and academic literature related to the carcinogens we’ve classified as important for surveillance in Canada. Sign up for one or both of these newsletters below.

CAREX Canada

Faculty of Health Sciences

Simon Fraser University
Harbour Centre Campus
2602 - 515 West Hastings St
Vancouver, BC  V6B 5K3

© 2020 CAREX Canada