Construction workers warned of invisible UV risk

Construction workers are putting themselves at risk if they do not protect themselves from the sun on cloudy or overcast days, according to roofing and facades manufacturer Marley Eternit.  To encourage safer behaviour on site and highlight the dangers of invisible UV radiation, it is giving away a supply of UV colour changing wrist bands to contractors as part of its 12th annual Safe in the Sun campaign.

Overexposure to UV, or ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB), is the biggest cause of skin cancer but unlike heat from the sun, the rays cannot be seen or felt and can still pass through light cloud.  Construction workers are thought to be most at risk because of the long periods of time spent outdoors, with some trades being up to nine times more likely to get skin cancer than other workers.

To help raise awareness of the risks of high UV levels, even on overcast days, Marley Eternit is providing free UV colour changing wrist bands to all of its contractor customers and has more available on request.  The white silicone bands carry the Safe in the Sun message and will change colour to red when continuously exposed to UV rays.

Katie Prestidge, trade marketing manager from Marley Eternit, explains:

“As a whole the construction industry is much more aware of the risk of sun damage and skin cancer from prolonged periods outdoors.  However, figures show that skin cancer rates in the UK are still increasing and a recent report from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) found that 50 outdoor workers are dying from skin cancer in the UK every year.

“Many people think of applying sun cream when they feel strong heat from the sun but actually it is the UV rays they can’t feel which are harmful and they can still damage the skin on cloudy and overcast days.   Figures from Cancer Research show that on overcast days 30 to 40 per cent of UV radiation will still penetrate through cloud cover.  If half the sky is covered in clouds, 80 per cent of UV radiation still gets through.

“Checking the UV index on the weather forecast, or on some of the available phone apps, is a good way to see whether you need protection.  However, this isn’t practical on site, so the UV wrist bands will help act as a visual reminder to take sun protection measures.  I think many people will be surprised at how much UV radiation they are exposed to.  On sunny days, employers should ensure outdoor workers protect themselves as a matter of course.  On cloudy and overcast days, if UV levels are 3 or higher on the index, or the wristband changes colour, then people need to wear sunscreen and cover up.”

Marley Eternit has also reissued its Safe in the Sun advice as a reminder to construction workers and their employers:

  • Keep a shirt or jacket on and opt for tightly woven fabrics, which help to form a barrier to the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Don’t leave exposed skin unprotected. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and remember to reapply regularly.
  • Wear a hard hat at all times, preferably with a brim and flap that will cover the ears and the back of the neck.
  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
  • Check your skin regularly for unusual spots and moles or changes to spots and moles.