The British weather is notoriously unreliable, but while many of us do welcome our hot, dry summer spells, we don’t realise the potentially harmful UV rays which construction workers are continually exposed to. Steve Jasper, field technician at Sika, explains more in this article.
Since roofers are particularly at risk when temperatures soar and shade is hard to find, it is worth providing a reminder of safety measures workers ought to be taking when toiling in the great outdoors.
Working outside increases the risk of developing skin cancer, with 1,700 people being diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK, 60 of which are fatal. What’s more, the sun doesn’t need to be out to be damaging. Up to 80% of its harmful UV rays can pierce the clouds.
Just like you would prepare for a cold, rainy day on-site, roofers should ensure they are appropriately dressed for brighter days. Long-sleeved tops and bottoms, made from closely-knit materials and breathable fabrics in darker colours, are thought to offer the best UV protection.
While hard hats are a site essential, in summer months workers are advised to accessorise their headgear with a cloth or a longer piece of material. This should be fitted beneath the hat to protect ears and the neck area.
Moreover, when working at high levels, the sun’s glare can be detrimental to the eyes in the long-term. Therefore, shades or tinted glasses that offer UVB and UVA protection should be worn. Wraparound glasses that cover more of the face offer the best protection.
Sunscreen is an obvious antidote to sunburn and the associated long-term risks. A high factor lotion which offers a minimum of SP15 protection should be applied to exposed skin and reapplied every two hours. Skin needs time to absorb sunscreen, therefore workers should allow 20 minutes post-lotion application before heading outside.
Remaining hydrated is also crucial to staying safe in the sun. Again, this is not easily achieved when working on a roof, so for convenience – and safety’s sake, operatives should always keep a filled water bottle with them and with the sun’s UV rays at their most potent between 10am and 4pm, ensure lunch and tea break times are taken in the shade.
Whatever the weather, personal responsibility plays a large part in keeping individuals safe. No amount of warnings or safety advice will suffice if somebody is set on soaking up the sun regardless of the long-term consequences (be aware: lengthy, unprotected exposure to the sun can also significantly age your skin).
Therefore, Sika has issued its clients with branded UV wristbands which alert the wearer when they have undergone too much UV exposure by changing colour. As an additional protective measure, the company is also providing free sunscreen for operatives.
Our UV wristbands and sun cream initiative has been warmly received by customers. One fitter told me that we had provided him with the industry’s number one roofing membrane, therefore the sun cream was an added bonus.
He was very appreciative of the fact that Sika products not only protect your roof but our field teams are focused on protecting the people that install them. It was extremely pleasing to hear such a reaction.