As summer arrives, concerns are increasing that outdoor construction workers may not be doing enough to stay safe in the sun, failing to protect their skin from damage and increasing their risk of developing skin cancer. A seasonal concern perhaps, which arrives along with the warmer weather, but skin damage is still a threat even in cloudy conditions.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the incidence of skin cancer in the UK is rising faster than any other form of cancer, even faster than in Australia, where the country has invested heavily in its ‘slip, slap, slop’ sun protection awareness campaign.
There are around 65,000 new cases of skin cancer reported in the UK each year and the numbers are rising. In particular, the incidence of malignant melanoma, one of the most potentially harmful forms of skin cancer, has risen sharply in the past decade – currently around 7000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The biggest increase is among men and is linked to their increased exposure to sunlight.
For the construction industry, sun protection has long been a recognised health and safety issue. The Health and Safety Executive has published a leaflet entitled Sun Protection : Advice for Employers of Outdoor Workers, which provides straightforward advice, which can be passed on to employees.
Many construction businesses have been quick to heed the safe in the sun message - advising workers to cover up, wear sun screen and drink plenty of water. However, there are still concerns that, when it comes to smaller contractors and building firms, the message might not be getting through.
In response, Marley Roofing’s ‘Safe in the Sun’ campaign, in association with the Institute of Cancer Research, is back this year to raise awareness about this important health and safety issue.
Paul Reed, Marketing Director, Marley Roofing, explains: “We are once again targeting all builders and contractors who employ outdoor workers in this year’s ‘Safe in the Sun’ campaign, encouraging them to take action and ensure their workers are properly protected. Our message is that skin cancer is preventable and by heeding some sensible advice and communicating this effectively, they could do a lot to address this important health issue.”
According to the Institute of Cancer Research, outdoor construction workers need to be particularly aware of the dangers of sun-damage and the signs of skin cancer, because of the extended periods they spend exposed to the sun and the episodes of sunburn which they may have experienced during their career.
Professor David Phillips at the Institute of Cancer Research, comments: “Over 1500 people in the UK die each year as a result of skin cancer and clearly those who are exposed to higher doses of sunlight are more at risk. Sunlight contains harmful UV rays, which can penetrate skin cells and cause damage which can lead to skin cancer.”
The ‘Safe in the Sun’ campaign has an extra edge of seriousness this year in view of the progress of the corporate killing legislation, following the inclusion of the corporate manslaughter bill in the Queen’s Speech in May. Based on the draft legislation, businesses will be held responsible if the way they manage their business is shown to have caused a person’s death. The legislation is being seen as a way of getting tough on health and safety breaches in the workplace by holding businesses to account.
Paul Reed at Marley Roofing adds: “The construction industry is already doing a lot to improve its health and safety performance and our Safe in the Sun campaign enables Marley Roofing to contribute to raising awareness about the importance of sun safety.”
Marley Roofing’s ten tips for outdoor construction workers follow:
- Keep your top on. Opt for tightly woven fabrics, which help to form a barrier to the sun’s harmful rays.
- Protect your head with a hat. Hats/caps with brims or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck can be worn under hard hats to prevent sunburn.
- Use a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF15 on any exposed skin. Apply as directed on the product.
- Take a break in the shade if you can, this will reduce the risk of harming your skin and help keep you cool.
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- Avoid mild reddening – it is a sign of skin damage and an early sign of burning.
- Don’t try to get a tan. It indicates that the skin has been damaged. The risk of skin cancer is linked to prolonged exposure to the sun.
- Continue to take care when you go on holiday as the skin remembers every exposure.
- Don’t get complacent, get to know the most vulnerable area of your skin, for example, the back of your neck and head. Keep them covered!
- Check your skin regularly for unusual moles or spots. See a doctor immediately if you find anything changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding.