Following over a year of lockdowns and Covid restrictions, the urge to get outdoors, for everyone, has never been greater. However, whilst the sun brings benefits – such as helping to replenish our depleted vitamin D levels – it also presents a real hazard, especially to roofers and construction workers who are on site throughout the often intense summer months.
And whilst Covid restrictions remain an essential part of all our lives for the foreseeable, we are urging contractors to focus on the importance of sun safety.
Problems caused by the sun’s damaging rays are well-documented – from premature ageing of the skin and heat exhaustion through to deadly malignant melanoma. Moreover, being in an outdoor setting can increase the risk of being affected by these conditions. According to the British Journal of Cancer, working in the sun could lead to one death and five new cases of melanoma skin cancer per week, with construction workers recording the highest number of deaths at 44%. It’s a serious issue.
However, the good news is that experts believe 4 out of 5 cases of skin cancer caused by UV exposure could be prevented if robust precautions were taken.
This year's campaign focusses on three important lines of defence in the fight against sun-induced illness - Cover Up, Use Sunscreen and Hydrate - to make sure everyone working on site this summer stays safe in the sun. So, here is our no-nonsense advice to make sure you are aware of the risks and are properly protected.
Clothing, especially those made using high rated UPF fabrics, should always be the first line of defence against sun damage, as it provides one of the most effective barriers between skin and sun. As much skin as possible should be covered, with particular attention being paid to areas that burn easily such as the neck and shoulders.
On site, a hard hat is essential, ideally with a brim and flap to shade the face, ears and neck whilst UV protective safety sunglasses (UV 400 rating) will help protect the delicate eye area.
Apply a sunscreen of at least Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 (for UVB protection) and a star rating of 4 or 5 (for UVA protection) evenly and regularly to all areas of exposed skin - including the face. Using a water-resistant formula will also help provide better protection as it is more able to cope with the effects of sweating.
Ideally, sunscreen should be applied at least 20 minutes before going outside and then re-applied every two hours. Consistency - in terms of even coverage and regular application is essential.
Not drinking enough water, especially whilst working hard on site in high temperatures as the body sweats to cool down, can cause serious, and if left unchecked, emergency medical conditions.
The risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and in extreme cases, heatstroke can be reduced by ensuring that fluids, ideally water, are consumed regularly throughout the day.