Working safely in the heat

Posted 11 Jul 2018

With the UK in the midst of one of the longest and hottest summers of recent memory, construction workers across the country might be losing their shirts to deal with the heat.

It might sound like a good idea, and to some it’s an opportunity to top up that tan, but careless working in the heat can cause serious, long-term health problems and put you at even greater risk of skin cancer.

In 2017, 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.

When you’re on holiday and the weather is baking hot, your first thought is to put on suncream to protect your skin, but you might not think to do the same at work. After all, it’s Britain, how hot can it get?

As the last few weeks have proved, it can in fact get quite hot, and whilst you might not be sunning it in the Maldives, you are still spending up to eight hours outside and as such you’re at risk of developing some nasty complications…

It is thought that working in the sun could lead to one death and around five new cases of melanoma each week. However, 90% of all skin cancer deaths are preventable if workers on site take simple, sun safety precautions.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of simple, easy-to-follow tips which can help you stay safe in the sun. Following this advice may prevent the development of a serious condition such as melanoma in the long term and keep you at work.

  • 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 during this time 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.

One of the most important things to remember is that 90% of all skin cancer occurrences are preventable, and following the advice in this article will go a long way to keeping you safe in the heat.

by Carolyn Campbell

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