So lets talk Sun Protection – For many, the summer months mean holidays at the beach, lounging by the pool, and spending more time outside in the sun. For construction workers, summer means working long hours in the hot sun. All that time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of sunburn, sun poising, and skin cancer.
Skin cancer accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia each year. Melanoma skin cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in Australian. The estimated number of new cases of melanoma skin cancer diagnosed in 2018 is 14,320 (8653 = males & 5667 = females).
The three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma – the most dangerous of skin cancer, are primarily caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from exposure to the sun.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common type of skin cancer and tend to remain localized. Melanoma is the least prevalent of the three, but it’s also the deadliest of the three. Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer that can spread rapidly to other parts of the body and can be fatal if not treated early enough.
The two types of UV rays that penetrate the earth’s atmosphere are UVA and UVB. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer, with UVB rays thought to be the primary cause of most skin cancers. UV rays are stronger during spring and summer months. Construction workers and tradies need to take extra precaution to protect themselves when working outdoors to limit their exposure to the sun and UV radiation.
The clothing a construction worker – tradie wears is an important part of protecting your skin from UV rays. Clothing is the best form of sun protection, but not all clothing offers the same level of protection from UV light. Several factors such as material, weave, and colour affect the amount of UV radiation a material blocks. Long-sleeved shirts and pants made from closely-knit materials in darker colours offer the best UV protection.
There are also clothing options that are labelled with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) that offers great protection and are typically made of lightweight fabrics and treated with sun protection chemicals or special dyes to block out UV light. Select clothes with a UPF of 50+ for best protection which only allows 1/50th of the sun’s UV radiation to reach your skin. By comparison, a thin white cotton T-shirt has a UPF around 5
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is a great way to protect your face, ears, and neck from the sun. If you are wearing a hard hat most of the day, there are accessories available that can be fitted over or under the hard hat to provide a wide brim or neck protection from the sun.
Sunglasses or safety glasses that offer both UVB and UVA protection should be worn any time you are out in the sun. Be sure to choose a pair that fit comfortably and offer 99-100% UV protection
Wearing sunscreen is an important part of protecting construction workers and tradies from UV rays. You want to select a broad-spectrum that offers protection from both UVB and UVA radiation. The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is also important to consider when selecting the right sunscreen to use. The SPF measures the amount of protection from UVB radiation.
Sunscreen with an SPF 30 protects against UVB rays 30 times longer than unprotected skin before starting to turn red. So, if your unprotected skin starts to turn red after 10 minutes, skin covered with sunscreen with an SPF 30+ would protect your skin for 300 minutes. The SPF also determines how much how much UVB is blocked when worn. Sunscreen with SPF 15 blocks 93% of the UVB rays, while SPF 30 blocks 97%.
Construction workers and tradies should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that is water resistant for 80 minutes.
Sunscreen should be applied to all parts of exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outdoors. Remember to reapply at least every two hours. Reapply more frequently on days with a high UV index. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation to ensure you are applying enough sunscreen to adequately protect your skin.
Erecting temporary shading is a good way to protect construction workers and tradies from the sun exposure. Limiting exposure to UV radiation during the strongest parts of the day, 10.00am to 4.00pm isn’t always easy depending on the type of work being conducted. At the very least, employers should have a tent or other shady area made available for workers to use during breaks and meals.
Sun exposure is a job site hazard that often gets overlooked by employers or gets less attention due to the more fatal hazards present on a job site. Making sure construction workers and tradies are aware of the dangers of UV radiation and providing training on various forms of sun protection for skin cancer in protecting workers.
Keeping Cool at the Construction Site
The hot days of summer will soon be upon us and the higher temperatures bring with the danger of suffering heat-related illnesses due to the strenuous nature of their jobs and prolonged exposure to the heat and humidity brought on during the summer months.
The risk is increased for workers where the temperature can reach higher than the outside temperature such as those performing roof work, road construction or doing interior work on a building with no air-conditioning and poor ventilation. Here is a list of helpful tips to beat the heat on-site this summer.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
You should be drinking water or other fluids every 15-20 minutes. Cool water should be your main source of hydration.
When workers sweat they don’t just loose water but also essential salts and minerals known as electrolytes. In order to stay hydrated and maintain optimal performance, it is vital that workers replenish lost electrolytes along with water. As such, electrolyte drinks play an integral role in any successful workplace. Electrolyte drinks are a good source of hydration along with knowledge and education all play a part in reducing heat stress on job sites.
Beverages to avoid include coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol which contain diuretics and will cause you to become dehydrated. Some of the symptoms of dehydration include increased thirst, dry mouth and swollen tongue, inability to sweat, weakness, dizziness and decreased urine output. If you experience any of these symptoms you should immediately take a break and rehydrate.
When to hydrate with an electrolyte drink?
THORTZ hydrates the body in a fast efficient way to maintain peak performance at all times, but when do you need a THORTZ shot? The number one way to tell whether your body needs rehydrating is assessing the colour of your urine.
The following chart is a guide that outlines when to hydrate based on the colour of your urine.
Dress for success.
In this case, we aren’t talking about a suit and tie. Natural fibre clothing such as lightweight cotton is always a good choice because it’s breathable and absorbs moisture well. Moisture wicking clothing is also a smart option because it draws the sweat off your body. This allows your body to cool quicker which is helpful in more humid climates where sweat evaporation becomes more difficult.
Get an early start.
The air temperature usually peaks between 3.00 and 4.30pm. The earlier you start your day the better off you’ll be. This is especially true if you can finish up or spend a limited time working before the onset of the hottest hours of the day.
Made in the shade. Taking frequent breaks in the shade is an important step to avoid heat-related illnesses. Whenever you are feeling overheated or presenting symptoms of heat stress you should take at least a 5-minutes break in a shaded area. This is also a great time to rehydrate if you haven’t already done so.
Lather on the sunscreen.
Whenever you are working outdoors you should be using sunscreen. Even on cloudy and overcast days, ultraviolet (UV) rays can reach you and cause sunburn.
Keep Cool. Helping your body maintain a stable temperature is vital in avoiding a heat-related illness. Once the air temperature gets near or above normal body temperature the blood circulated to your skin can’t lose heat. This causes you to sweat, but that’s not enough to cool your body if the humidity won’t allow the sweat to evaporate.
To cool your body temperature down, try getting into an air-conditioned space like a vehicle or job site shed. You can also apply a cool, wet cloth such as THORTZ Chill Skinz Cooling Towel to pulse points on your body such as neck, wrists and elbows. The tops of your feet and inside of your ankles are also pulse points so try soaking them in a bucket of cool water for a few minutes. (We suggest taking your work boots and socks off first)
If you are working indoors with no air conditioning consider setting up some portable fans to increase air circulation and cool you off. There are also a number of personal cooling devices like cooling vest or neck coolers that can help you beat the heat.
Mind the heat index. Employers and workers should always be aware of the heat index. The heat index combines air temperature and relative humidity to determine the apparent temperature. Apparent temperature is what it actually feels like outside. As we mentioned earlier, if the humidity is too high it inhabits sweat from evaporating which reduces the body’s ability to cool itself. Very low humidity increases sweat evaporation which can lead to dehydration.
There are Heat Safety Tool mobile app’s that will help calculate the heat index and display the risk level to workers. The app can also provide reminders with protective measures to take based on the risk level. Being aware of the heat index and taking the recommended precautions can reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses.
Know the signs.
Heat stress, heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all heat-related illnesses that can occur at the work site. It is important to have properly trained safety personnel on hand to monitor workers and if necessary provide first aid to any worker presenting symptoms for any of these illnesses. Symptoms can arise quickly so it’s also important to train your workers so they also monitor themselves and their co-workers and empower them to notify a supervisor and take the appropriate steps if they feel they or co-worker is becoming ill.
Thousands of workers every year are affected by heat-related illnesses. Heatstroke can cause major damage to your organs including your heart, liver and kidney. It can also cause damage to muscle, blood disorders and death. Heat exhaustion can cause workers to be less alert which can result in other construction-related injuries. By taking the above precautions most heat-related illnesses can be prevented or caught in enough time to treat and avoid serious injury or death.