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Sun safety in construction

Sun safety in construction


In the UK everyone looks forward to the good weather and some sunshine. However with sunny weather comes the risk of sunburn and potentially
skin cancer. Skin cancer is by far the most common type
of cancer in the UK. With figures from Cancer Research estimating that there are as many
as 100,000 new cases each year. Around 50 per cent of work related cases of
the most common type of skin cancer are in the construction industry. The scale of the
problem within construction has prompted the making of this film that will give you the
facts about skin cancer caused by the sun and suggest some ways of minimising your risk
when working outside in the summer months. If detected early there is a 95 per cent success
rate in treating this type of cancer; a far better rate than for most other types of cancer.
However, if left to develop, some types of skin cancer can spread via lymph nodes and
into the immune system to other organs within the body causing secondary cancers. In the most severe cases skin cancer can be
fatal. But whilst rarely fatal, treatment often involves surgery to cut out the cancer.
The process can be traumatic; from finding the tumour, awaiting diagnosis from your GP
or specialist, the removal process, the wait for test results to find out whether the tumour
was cancerous and then for larger removals reconstructive surgery. Many who have had skin cancer get further
tumours. Cancer Research advises that the risk can be increased by as much as nine times. The skin is very complex with several different layers each with its own role. When a tumour forms, often it can be like an iceberg with only a small area visible on the surface but with substantially more area affected by cancerous cells below. It’s this iceberg that causes most surprise to the patient after surgery
when they realise how much has had to be cut out to ensure all of the cancer has been removed
and only healthy cells remain. The most common areas for skin cancer are
on the back, neck, and sometimes the back of the legs. You may have found it difficult
to apply sun-cream to these areas. Some people are more likely than others to
develop skin cancer. If you have lots of moles or freckles, light coloured eyes, or have
red or fair hair, then you will be at more risk because people with any of these characteristics
typically burn easily. Irrespective of your skin type, staying in
the sun until your skin goes pink or red is a physical sign that you have already caused
damage to your skin. Repeatedly letting this happen can lead to developing skin cancer. People can sometimes assume that bright sunshine
is the cause of skin cancer. However, what actually causes it is ultraviolet or UV radiation
that comes from the sun. Cancer Research advises that main periods
of risks in the UK are the months April to mid-September with the highest levels of UV
rays being present between 11 am and three pm. UV rays penetrate skin cells causing sunburn,
skin ageing and DNA damage. It’s this damage that can cause you to develop skin cancer. UV rays are invisible and cannot be felt on
the skin. The heat of the sun that you feel comes from infrared rays. A common misconception is that risk only exists
when there is bright sunshine. This is wrong. UV rays are still present on a cloudy or overcast
day. 30 to 40 per cent of UV rays will still penetrate through dense cloud cover and up
to 80 per cent if only half the sky is covered in cloud.
UV rays are also present from reflections; not just from metal roofs, coverings or glass,
but 5 to 10 per cent off the surface of water, 15 per cent off sand and 10 per cent off concrete
surfaces so you may be exposed even if you think you are in the shade. There are 10 sun safety measures. In the same way that you or perhaps the site
manager check the weather forecast for the next day, or even further, it is possible
to check the UV forecast. The UV level is often given in newspapers, websites and on television or radio forecasts. The UV level will usually be listed as a number which will then be grouped as low, medium or high. This information will enable you and the site manager
to prepare for the level of protection needed. The next sun safety measures can only be achieved
with the co-operation of your employer or the principal contractor for the site which
you are working. Where possible between 11 am and three pm work should be undertaken away from direct sunlight either inside or in a shaded area. Any canopy or cover provided
for shade should be made from fabric or material that is fire rated and tested for UV protection with a UPF protection of 30 plus. Obviously this is only suitable for areas where the worker is positioned in one area for a period of time and where plant such as forklifts
and excavators are not needed for the task. Where it is not possible for everybody to
work away from direct sunlight, or provide shade, thought should be given to the rotation
of workers so that as little time as possible is spent working in direct sunlight. When it’s hot and you’re doing lots of manual work, probably the last thing you would think to wear is lots of clothes. However in Australia, parts of the USA and other countries where the weather is far hotter and sunnier than the UK, it is very common for workers
to wear long-sleeved tops and long trousers when working outside. The clothing is designed
for working outdoors and whilst harder to find, it is available in the UK. Such clothing is designed to be both comfortable when working outdoors and to offer protection by being:
quick drying, soaks up sweat so you don’t feel wet; high wicking, moves sweat, moisture away from your skin quickly; UV protecting, the material will have been tested and therefore will have the protection rating or UPF. Look for a UPF rating of 30 plus. Remember where clothing or PPE is provided to you by your employer, you must by law make sure that you
wear it. You probably haven’t seen many wide-brimmed
hats with neck protection on a construction site as normally hard-hats must be worn at
all times. Hard-hats don’t usually have cover for the neck however some manufacturers
produce neck protection that can be attached to your hard-hat. Where neck protection is
not provided or available, you need to think about how you can cover and protect your neck. Another area of the body that can be affected by UV radiation is the eyes with damage leading to cataracts or even cancer in the eye. When selecting sunglasses, you need to remember to choose wrap around types to prevent sun creeping in at sides, ensure the sunglasses have a marked UV rating of 400 and with a label stating 100 per cent UV protection. Many sites now have sun-lotion dispensers
or single use sachets for you to use. And there are many sun lotions on the market which are quick drying and non-greasy so dust and dirt won’t stick to your skin. When you use sun lotion the following points are important: ensure the sunscreen you use has a UVA and
UVB protection and a solar protection factor, SPF rating of 30 as well as a four star rating.
Don’t scrimp, you need to put at least a teaspoon-full on each arm, leg, front, and
back of the body and at least half a teaspoon-full to the face every time you put on sun-lotion.
Make sure you leave enough time for the cream to soak in before going out into the sun. Make sure you re-apply cream regularly during the day remembering to wash your skin beforehand.
Remember you need to put the lotion on all areas that are not covered and could be exposed to the sun. Don’t forget your neck, head, ears and back. Drinking plenty of water is important for
healthy skin which will help to minimise the impact of the sun on your skin. Checking your skin is the final sun safety
measure. The earlier the detection and diagnosis, the more effectively skin cancer can be treated.
The best way to detect skin cancer is to spend a couple of minutes checking your skin at
least once a month. Check your head, face, neck and chest; right
down to your hips. Look in a mirror, or get someone else to check
the areas you can’t easily see, such as the back of your head, ears and back. Next check your arms, elbows including your
underarms and both sides of your hands. When checking your body you are looking for
any marks that appear to be growing, bleeding or changing appearance in any way; a spot
or sore that does not heal within 4 weeks. A spot, mole or sore that itches, hurts, scabs,
crusts or bleeds for more than four weeks; areas of skin that become sore or an ulcer
forms for no apparent reason and again it doesn’t heal up within four weeks. Checking moles is particularly important as the most serious form of skin cancer often starts from moles on your skin. There is an A, B, C, D easy guide to checking moles. Asymmetry: the two halves of the mole may differ in their shape and not match. Border: the outside edges of the mole may appear to be blurred and sometimes not show notches or look ragged. Colour: this may be uneven and patchy.
You may see different shades of black, brown and pink. Diameter: typically this type of skin cancer is at least six millimetres in diameter; larger than the rubber on top of a pencil. If any
mole gets bigger or changes, tell your doctor. It is very important that you visit your GP
immediately if you think you’ve found any of these points when checking your skin. You will never be criticised for getting it checked out. Skin cancer is on the increase. But by following
the guidance in this film, you can help to protect yourself from this entirely preventable
form of cancer.

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