With summer reaching its peak, there is still much to look forward to for those who live for long, hot lazy days. But sizzling temperatures aren’t for everyone. For construction workers engaged in strenuous outdoor labours, the sunshine season carries a number of potential risks.

Roofers in particular, due to the exposed nature of their work, are most vulnerable to the sun’s harmful UV rays. But by taking a few simple protective steps, employees across building sites can stay safe in the sun whilst getting the job done.

As an example of why builders should take good care when working outside and UV rays are at their highest – between May and September – a British journal of Cancer report found that construction workers account for 44% of occupational skin cancer diagnosis, and 42% of occupational skin cancer deaths each year. This equates to 21 deaths and 101 diagnoses.

Knowing the risks
But the sun isn’t discriminatory – it poses a risk to anyone that spends too long beneath its glare without taking protective measures. In 2022, for example, 35% of people in the UK were burnt at least once, with 28% of those being burnt more than three times during the year. Sadly, the more frequent the burn, the more likely a person is to develop melanoma skin cancer.

Even one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chance of developing melanoma later in life. Furthermore, the sun doesn’t need to be visible to be damaging. Up to 80% of its harmful UV rays can pierce the clouds, so even if you’re not basking in an undiluted solar blaze, you are not immune to being burnt. So, how can building site workers stay safe in the sun?

Sensible safety measures
As a company long-committed to maintaining the highest levels of health and safety, BriggsAmasco has introduced a number of sensible initiatives to protect site-based staff during the summer months. We issue operatives with a high-factor sun cream (SPF 30 or SPF 50), which is an essential item when the sun is at its highest, whatever your skin type.

With good hydration a must to workers’ wellbeing when the heat is on, we see it as our duty to ensure a site is stocked with plenty of bottled drinking water. Where possible, we also encourage staff to adopt more flexible working hours, with them arriving on site at an earlier time to avoid toiling during the hottest part of the day.

Keeping site workers safe during summer means employing good project management. It’s why we have senior employees in place wherever our site staff are based to ensure they are ‘sun aware’. This involves carrying out detailed risk assessments to ensure roofing operatives take regular ‘shade breaks’ and keep covered to avoid burning.

In terms of sun-safe sartorial choices, accessorising everyday wear is a quick and easy solution for site workers. For example, attaching a cloth or a longer piece of material to protective headgear provides an effective shield for the ears and neck area.

With solar glare a further potential risk in summer, particularly to operatives working at height, the wearing of shades or tinted glasses offering UVB and UVA protection are advised. For other areas of the body, long-sleeved tops, and bottoms made from closely knit materials and breathable fabrics in darker colours, are comfortable and sun-safe.

The sun has many beneficial qualities. It provides a natural source of Vitamin D, which is important for bones and boosting the body’s immune system. The sun is also essential for our mental wellbeing. Its presence helps lift the spirits and makes the world seem a brighter place, figuratively and literally. However, too much of anything can be harmful. Therefore, whether onsite or at leisure, enjoy the summer sun’s feelgood factor – but don’t feel the burn.

By Tony Lawther, BriggsAmasco Manging Director