Construction workers have six times greater risk of skin cancer

Every day, skin cancer kills seven people in the UK – that’s 2,500 people each year – and construction workers have a six times greater chance than the  general population of being among them. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, with over 100,000 new cases being diagnosed every year in the UK and 10,000 new cases in Ireland. Those who work outdoors, especially construction workers, face the highest risks of contracting the disease, due to the amount of time they spend outside and exposed to ultra violet rays (UVR) throughout the year. Skin cancer accounts for seven per cent of diagnosed work-related disease among construction workers in the UK.

That is why Arco, the UK’s leading safety company, is highlighting the need for sun protection for construction workers. Arco believes that sun protection is a vital element of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), and that both employers and employees should take the greatest care when working outdoors even for short periods. The company’s protection products include the excellent Deb® SunPROTECT range of sun creams, with the Deb SunPROTECT Skin Safety Centre which helps to educate people about the dangers of working outside.

Why such risk in construction?

Construction workers face higher risks of skin cancer than the rest of the UK population for two reasons: they work mostly outside all year and are more exposed to UVR; and most are unaware of the dangers of UVR even in cloudy weather, and less aware of when and how they should protect themselves.

Research by Nottingham University found that two thirds of construction workers, outside for an average of nearly seven hours a day, thought they were not at risk or were unsure if they were. Yet more than half of them had fair skin, giving them a higher risk of developing skin cancer, and nearly 60 per cent had had sunburn in the past 12 months. Over 80 per cent had never had their skin checked by a health professional, and more than half never checked for moles or skin damage. Yet only a third thought that they were at risk, or might be at risk, of developing skin cancer although more men than women die from the disease. The researchers also noted a ‘macho culture’ in some parts of the industry and wrong beliefs about the threat of UVR in the UK. Contrary to popular belief, cloud cover does not protect from solar radiation, which can also be reflected onto the skin by water, metal, concrete and other surfaces.

The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) has now called for employers and workers to take simple measures to prevent skin damage.

Jeff Snee, Arco’s Product and Procurement Manager, said:

“There is nothing manly about skin cancer. That’s why we are making sun PPE, and particularly using sun cream, a priority this year.”

What to do? A checklist for construction employers and workers

  • Be safe in the sun. Treat UVR protection as a health and safety at work priority.
  • Check UV levels daily. Protection is needed when the level is 3 or above.
  • Wear a safety helmet with a hanging flap to protect the back of the neck and ‘wraparound’ sunglasses that protect the sides of the eyes.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Stay out of the sun in the middle of the day and swap jobs regularly to keep out of direct sunlight.
  • Check skin regularly for spots or moles that change size, shape or colour or bleed. See your doctor if you find anything unusual.
  • Get protection.  Arco offers a wide variety of sun protection, including the Deb® SunPROTECT range of sun creams, which are perfume-free, non-greasy and water-resistant. These include a 150ml tube for individuals and a one-litre cartridge, plus a dispenser for larger teams. The Deb SunPROTECT Skin Safety Centre helps to raise awareness of UV danger at work with a pre-assembled one-litre dispenser of sun cream, with a set of numbered cards for displaying the current UV level, plus a QR code which links to the Met Office’s weather and UV level web page so that UV index cards can be regularly updated.
  • Get expert help. Arco offers expert guidance to customers on how to keep themselves and their workers safe. Arco has over 48 stores across the country where approachable people are available to give expert advice on what protection to wear and also offers advice on its website and over the phone.

The Deb® SunPROTECT products, helmets, neck flaps, and other sun protection, are available from Arco’s website.