As a construction worker, you likely spend hours each day working in direct sunlight. The big question is, have you ever stopped to consider how this may be affecting your short-term and long-term health?
According to an article from EHS Today, one-third of all cancer diagnoses globally are some form of skin cancer. In fact, treatment and productivity losses from skin cancer in the U.S. and Canada alone total more than $11 billion annually.
In the construction field, workers are often exposed to 10 times the recommended daily UV exposure levels. As a result, they are six times more likely to develop skin cancer than the regular population, according to EHS Today.
So, how can you protect yourself from harmful sunrays when on the construction jobsite? It begins with education—knowing how environmental factors affect your body. This knowledge gives you the ability to wear protective gear or take other types of preventative action.
First, there are three types of radiation that come from the sun:
- UVA–These rays have an “aging” effect on your skin.
- UVB–These are the rays that cause sunburn.
- UVC–The earth’s ozone layer typically absorbs this type of radiation.
What is a simple defense to these rays? You guessed it: sunscreen. Construction workers—or anyone that is outside for an extended period of time—should wear sun protection anytime the UV index reaches 3 or higher. “Broad-spectrum” sunscreens are preferable, as they protect against UVA and UVB rays.
Remember: While sunburn may seem like it’s not a big deal at the time, every episode of sunburn increases your risk of developing skin cancer.
Each year, over 81,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S., and more than 12,000 people die because of the disease.
Who is at greatest risk?
According to The Deb Group, there are a few variables that may put you at a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others. A few specific types of people may need to be especially careful when working in the sun:
- People with very fair skin
- People with a personal or family history of skin cancer
- People with a lot of moles
- People being treated with immunosuppressive drugs
How do I prevent sunburn on the jobsite?
First and foremost, it is the employer’s responsibility to advise employees of the dangers of working in the sun. However, it is wise to take precautions yourself in order to prevent serious health issues down the road.
Here are a few suggestions from The Deb Group for staying safe from UV rays on the jobsite.
- Whenever you can, work in a shaded area or take breaks in such an area. Remember, however, that sun protection is still needed even if you are working in a shaded area.
- Cover up exposed areas of skin when possible. Wear a hat if you can, especially a broad-brimmed hat with ear and neck protection. Wear sunglasses with UV protection.
- Between late April and early September, be sure to use 30 SPF sunscreen every day. Cover your face, the tops of your ears, and your arms. When putting sunscreen on, make sure you’re applying it to clean skin, which may be difficult at times on the job. Reapply every two to three hours.
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- Check your skin regularly for unusual moles or spots that could indicate melanoma.
If you have any worrisome spots on your skin, do not hesitate to contact a dermatologist.
If your doctor states that your skin cancer diagnosis is related to your field of work, you may have the ability to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Want to learn more about skin cancer and its relation to construction work? Are you suffering from skin cancer as a result of your construction career? Contact the experienced construction accident workers’ compensation attorneys at The Harris Firm in Cincinnati, Ohio, today.