Working in Construction in the Heat of the Summer
Most people in the construction industry spend a lot of time working outdoors. This means working in all kinds of weather conditions which need to be considered as part of health and safety. We all know that working outdoors in the winter means that we face all kinds of dangerous conditions – high winds, icy rain, sleet, snow, etc. The winter is usually considered a harsh time of the year for outdoor workers and we’re usually glad to see that spring has sprung and warmer weather is on the way.
However, with clear skies and plenty of sunshine come another set of risks that we don’t always take into consideration. Nowadays we know that working in the sunshine means that we should be protecting ourselves from the ultra violet rays. In the summer months we’re at risk of contracting a disease that we rarely consider – skin cancer.
According to research carried out by the Imperial College London, on average five people every day will be diagnosed with skin cancer contracted whilst working. Solar radiation is the radiant energy given off by the sun. The sun emits different types of light, some of which is visible and others that we are unable to see. We see visible light and we feel infrared radiation as the warmth of the sun. It’s the ultraviolet (UV) radiation that causes our skin to tan which can lead to premature ageing, wrinkles and, if precautions are not taken, sometimes skin cancer.
UV radiation is classified into three bands:
1. UVA accounts for about 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. UVA penetrates into the skin deeply and is what’s responsible for premature ageing and wrinkling as well as skin cancer.
2. UVB is mostly filtered by the ozone layer before it reaches the earth’s surface. However, UVB can cause more damage that UVA – it affects the outer layers of the skin, causing sunburn, premature ageing, wrinkles and skin cancer.
3. UVC is the most dangerous type of UV radiation but most of this is prevented from reaching the earth’s surface by the ozone layer.
Solar radiation has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen and identified as a definite cause of cancer in humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). We hear more in the media nowadays about the risk of contracting cancer from the sun and the market is awash with different types and strengths of sun blocks, creams and other products. However, the sun cream industry in the UK mostly targets holiday makers – those who plan to go abroad to sunnier climes for their fortnight of frolicking and fun.
Many of us don’t even consider using sun creams here in the UK as we’re used to the weather not being as warm and sunny as we would like. This means that many employers and workers in the construction industry are not used to seeing sunshine as a risk factor – we’re usually too busy enjoying the rays as we work to complain about sunburn.
If you work in the construction industry and spend a lot of time outdoors, then you’re more at risk than most in the UK of developing skin cancer due to the sun. There are plenty of ways of preventing this – wear light weight clothing that is cool but keeps your skin covered. Above all, get hold of some sun cream and start using it on sunny days – keep some at home to apply before you go to work and make sure you have an extra tube for top ups during the day so that you can avoid contracting skin cancer at work.