Despite soaring tempera-tures, fewer employers are providing sun protection for staff.
According to health and safety firm Croner, only twothirds (67 per cent) of health and safety professionals support subsidising sunscreen for staff who work outdoors.
This is compared to 80 per cent from identical research in summer 2003.
With cases of skin cancer on the rise the UK's estimated 2.2 million outdoor workers are in one of the highest risk groups.
Caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun, it is one of the most common cancers in the UK with 100,000 new cases every year.
But under current health and safety regulations it is not compulsory to provide sunscreen.
Croner said it was concerned too many employers, even those who support providing free sunscreen in principle, are not necessarily doing anything above the statutory minimum to prevent skin cancer.
HSE guidelines stipulate employers provide sun protection advice to employees, in the form of pamphlets and notice boards.
Nasar Farooq, health and safety expert at Croner, said: "Sunshine can be an occupational hazard that is foreseeable, and so employers must address the risk to their out-door workers.
"Even though there is a growing awareness of the danger of too much sun, I'm very surprised to see a decline in support for such a simple solution as free SPF lotion.
"Of course, the employees must also act responsibly and should buy and use such lotions to protect themselves when they are basking in the sunshine at home or indeed on holiday.
"But many companies still take a 'bare minimum' approach to complying with legal safety standards.
"We advise firms to seriously consider providing sunscreen. In companies that don't, if an employee was able to prove to the courts that his employer failed in his duty to protect the employee from the risk of significant work-related exposure to the sun, then I wouldn't be surprised if an employee with skin cancer tried to make a claim against their employer, which could be a lot more costly than supplying sunscreen."
Croner recommends that companies keep workers informed about the dangers of sun exposure by including sun protection advice in routine health and safety training. They also suggest taking practical measures such as placing water and rest points in the shade, and encouraging workers to take their breaks in the shade.
Workers should also be encouraged to keep their shirts on at work, apply sunscreen of at least SPF 15 to exposed areas and drink plenty of water.