weather warning! how to prevent skin cancer

Working outdoors at this time of the year is one of the benefits of working in construction. Morning alarms, journeys onto site and the physical side of the job are easier to deal with when there are blue skies over your head.

But for those who work outdoors, sunshine also signals a health hazard. Workers will be used to wearing hard hats and other protective clothing to keep themselves safe but now that summer is here they need to consider another form of protection: sun cream.

Skin cancer threat to construction workers

Most of us take the opportunity to enjoy the sun when it’s out but UV rays come with a risk and those who work outdoors are dramatically more at risk from them than others. Earlier this year a study published in the British Journal of Cancer said 48 workers a year died from cancer caused by overexposure to the sun while 4% of all cancer cases in the UK are on the skin.

An overwhelming majority of these cases were construction workers (44% of deaths), followed by agriculture workers (23%) and highlights how both employees and employers need to recognise the harmful effects of the sun.

Skin cancer is the most common form of the disease in the UK with approximately 100,000 cases diagnosed a year and the grim reality is that seven people a day die from it. 

Warm weather warnings

The law states that employers must provide “information, instruction, training and supervision” to ensure workers’ safety and that also includes agencies like Randstad. One of the things we’ll be doing this summer is handing out sunscreen at Waterloo station to highlight the need to protect our skin from being damaged. 

Warm weather does not just mean the threat of developing a serious illness like cancer. There’s also the risk of dehydration and sun stroke so workers should be taking regular breaks in shade and drinking plenty of water. 

This is what the British Skin Foundation suggests workers do when the mercury starts to rise:

This is your first line of defence against damage from the sun. Items including a hat, t-shirt and properly protective sunglasses are the perfect double team with sunscreen.

Find the right sunscreen
Look for a four or ideally five-star UVA rating on the bottle which will help protect from UVA radiation, associated with skin ageing. Ideally you want to slap on factor 30. 

Get your timing right
Apply sunscreen about 20 to 30 minutes before going out and reapply frequently at least every two hours.

Take cover
The sun tends to be strongest between 11am and 3pm and just 10 minutes of strong sunshine is all it takes to burn pale skin.​

- Owen Goodhead is managing director of Randstad Construction, Property and Engineering
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