By Jason Godfrey, Safesite general manager
With temperatures soaring to scorching levels across the UK, off come the shirts on many building sites throughout the country, as workers attempt to deal with the intense heat. Whilst this might feel like a good idea at the time, this can often put them at an even greater risk of skin cancer.
The Imperial College London carried out a survey which showed 48 deaths and 241 cases of melanoma skin cancer each year are caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun at work, and construction workers account for a staggering 44 per cent of these deaths.
Katie Prestidge, who is running roofing systems provider Marley Eternit’s Safe in the Sun Campaign, said: “These latest findings show that there is no room for complacency when it comes to sun safety on site. Most people are careful about applying sun cream when they are abroad on holiday, but wouldn’t necessarily think of taking the same precautions when spending seven hours outside in the summer at work yet, it is just as, if not more, dangerous.
“It is thought that working in the sun could lead to one death and around five new cases of melanoma each week. Yet, 90% of all skin cancer deaths are preventable if workers on site take simple, sun safety precautions.”
With these shocking new figures in mind, we have put together a list of simple, easy-to-follow tips which can help you stay safe in the sun, and may prevent the development of a serious condition such as melanoma in the long term.
> Instead of removing clothes to beat the heat, try to wear long, loose clothing, made from close woven fabric, as this protects your skin from UV rays.
> Make sure you protect your neck and head. 80% of skin cancers develop here, so covering these areas can go a long way to preventing skin cancer. Wear a hat with a brim or flap to cover your ears as well as the back of your neck. Aim for fabrics which have a UPF of 30+
> Avoid the midday sun if possible. UV levels are highest from April until mid-September, so try to stay in the shade during breaks, specifically between 11am and 3pm.
> Despite common belief, having a tan does not protect you from further sun damage. Always make sure you use a high factor sunscreen and reapply regularly. Though this seems obvious, many people don’t apply enough protection to exposed areas or leave enough time for the cream to soak in before going out.
> Drinking plenty of water keeps you from getting dehydrated, and keeps your skin healthy.
> Check your skin often: catching melanoma earlier improves the chances of any treatment, so keep an eye out for any irregular moles or spots. If you find anything out of the ordinary, see your doctor as soon as possible. Moles are the most aggressive form of skin cancer so pay extra attention to these.
> Check the UV index regularly. There are apps which can give you the UV rating as part of the weather forecast, or you can visit the Met Office website.
Remember, 90% of all skin cancer occurrences are preventable, and following the advice in this article will go a long way to keeping you, or your workers, safe in the heat.