Skin cancer – why roofers and construction workers need sun protection

Despite Britain’s often disappointing summer weather, the sun still carries more than enough power to provide a significant risk of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is usually caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays, which is also seen as the most avoidable cause of skin cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, there are almost 16,000 new cases of skin cancer each year across the country. In 2015, there were 2,285 deaths.

However, skin cancer need not be fatal – it has a survival rate of around 90 per cent if caught early and treated correctly – but a huge proportion of cases could be prevented. In fact, it is estimated that 86 per cent of cases could be prevented. It means it’s essential to recognise most at-risk groups and ensure they are given both protective measures, and the necessary education, to bring the number down and prevent skin cancer cases.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.

Who is most susceptible?

Age, genetics and lifestyle can all determine how susceptible somebody is to developing skin cancer. Skin type, hair and eye colour are also factors, as is the number of moles that a person has on their skin.

In terms of lifestyle, it should go without saying that sunbeds are incredibly dangerous and a terrible idea, and even tanning naturally in the sun should be approached with extreme caution.

However, some groups have no choice but to be out in the sun, specifically those who need to be outside as part of their job. It is those groups, including roofers, construction workers, gardeners, and so on, who need the most protection.

On hot days they can spend hours on end in the sun – and even on cloudy days, the sun can do damage through the clouds.

People should be aware of the issues and take action themselves, as well as being offered protection from their employers, to limit the damage done by the sun and to reduce the chances of developing skin cancer.

What should individuals do?

  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.
  3. Apply suncream liberally – at least a teaspoon for the face and neck.
  4. Don’t rely on a once-a-day suncream, which can rub off and be affected by sweat.
  5. To reduce the amount of suncream needed, wear long sleeved, lightweight, UV-protective PPE.

What help should employers provide?

An employer’s duty of care to staff extends to providing protection from the sun. Employers should offer education, ensuring staff are aware of the dangers posed by extended, unprotected sun exposure. They should offer sunscreen, and consider it as important a part of health and safety as hard hats and safety boots.

They should also provide protective, light and breathable but long-sleeved clothing that will help keep workers cool but protected in the warmest conditions.

Can skin cancer sufferers take legal action?

People who have developed skin cancer as a result of sun exposure while at work might be able to take legal action. Browell Smith & Co has a long history of representing workers who have developed diseases because of negligence on the part of their employers.

Skin cancer might not be as widespread as some of the more common industrial diseases, such as asbestos-related diseases, but its effects can still be devastating.

Our clinical negligence team has also dealt with skin cancer patients, where there have been cases of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

Browell Smith & Co has a long-standing reputation for securing justice for victims of personal injury. You can read more about our range of personal injury services here.

Contact our expert team today to arrange an appointment in Newcastle, Cramlington, Ashington and Sunderland, or alternatively by calling 0800 107 3000, to discuss your particular requirements.

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