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Be Safe in the Sun

Marley Eternit’s Katie Prestidge, on ways in which the whole industry should work together to spread the message about sun safety on site.

Skin cancer rates in the UK are rising faster than in any other part of Europe, and with outdoor workers particularly at risk. 

 Since the launch of our Safe in the Sun campaign 15 years ago, it has been encouraging to see over this time the construction industry has taken some positive steps to reduce the risk of sun damage. However, while positive steps have been made, there are still 1,500 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 240 new cases of malignant melanoma linked to solar radiation through work* diagnosed each year, indicating there is clearly still some way to go.

In order to promote sun safety across the construction industry, Marley Eternit is re-launching its annual Safe in the Sun campaign, and this year its focus is on encouraging outdoor workers to use sun cream.

Now, most main contractors, house builders and large roofing companies have sun safe procedures and many building companies also require subcontractors to wear appropriate tops on site at all times.

However, it is clear that there is still an attitude of complacency in the UK when it comes to suncream use.  In fact, our own research found that 86 per cent of construction workers make do with a lower than 30 SPF suncream and, more alarmingly, many don’t use it at all.

Yet, 90 per cent of all skin cancer deaths are preventable if workers on site take simple, sun safety precautions.   So, this summer, we’re continuing our annual Safe in the Sun campaign by asking everyone in the industry to help us raise awareness about skin cancer and the easy steps that can be taken by construction workers to reduce their own risk.

As well as making sure that all employees working in building and timber yards follow our sun safety advice, merchants are ideally placed to help inform and educate their own customers, many of whom are in the high risk skin cancer category.  For example, now is an ideal opportunity to create a sun safety display in branch, containing advice, sun cream giveaways and highlighting the products available to help reduce skin cancer risk on site.

We are also encouraging construction workers to be more aware of UV levels.  Checking the UV index on the weather forecast, or on some of the available phone apps, is a good way to see whether protection is needed that day.

The National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) is backing our Safe in the Sun campaign and Gary Walpole, technical and health & safety officer at the NFRC, says:  Gary Walpole, health and safety manager at the NFRC, said: “Sun safety is a big challenge in the industry and we need to change attitudes towards sun protection.  Managers and supervisors have a key role to play in changing the culture. Many main construction businesses are already enforcing the use of sun safety procedures but they can make it easier for workers to access water and sun cream by providing accessible stations, so workers don’t have to go all the way to the site offices.  To reduce the amount of suncream needed, they could also follow the Australian model of providing long sleeve, light weight PPE to keep roofers cool and protect them from the sun.”

Skin cancer deaths in construction are preventable and everyone needs to make sure they are protecting themselves in the sun.  Marley Eternit has the following Safe in the Sun advice for merchants and their customers:

  1. Don’t leave exposed skin unprotected. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 25 and remember to reapply regularly throughout the day
  2. Check your suncream hasn’t expired.  If there isn’t an expiry date on the bottle, look out for a small symbol of an open pot. This tells you how long you can use the cream for once opened, e.g. 18 months
  3. Apply suncream liberally – as a rough guide use around a teaspoon for the face and neck, six teaspoons for the whole body
  4. Don’t rely on a once a day suncream – put it on in the morning and reapply at lunchtime
  5. To reduce the amount of suncream needed, consider using long sleeved, lightweight, UV-protective PPE.

For employers:

  1. Ensure all workers are briefed on your sun safety procedures
  2. Swap job tasks between workers to make sure everyone spends some time in the shade if possible
  3. Make sure rest breaks are taken in shaded areas

Help Marley Eternit and the NFRC raise awareness about skin cancer risks:

– Share our safe in the sun advice with your customers and colleagues

– Join the debate on Twitter – follow @MarleyEternit and share the #safeinthesun message

About Katie Prestidge

Katie Prestidge

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