Continued exposure to the sun without taking sensible precautions can have serious consequences in terms of a person’s long-term health. Roofers are particularly at risk when temperatures soar and shade is hard to come by, which is why, alongside its wristband and free sunscreen campaign for operatives, Sika has provided a reminder of safety measures workers ought to be taking when working on projects.
Working outside increases the risk of developing skin cancer caused by over exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. In the UK, 1,700 people are diagnosed with the condition each year, with around 60 of these diagnosed cases proving fatal. Although those with fair or freckled skin and people with a large number of moles are most susceptible to skin cancer – or malignant melanoma – anyone who regularly neglects to cover up when the sun is at its highest is at risk. Indeed, the sun doesn’t need to be visible to be damaging. Up to 80% of its UV rays can pierce the clouds, so even if we’re not basking in an undiluted solar blaze, we are not immune to its burn.
Just as we would prepare for a cold, rainy day on site by wearing thermals and waterproofs, we should ensure we’re appropriately dressed for brighter days. On hot, sunny occasions, apparel that offers good sun protection whilst conforming to the usual health and safety standards is a must. Long-sleeved tops and bottoms made from closely-knit materials and breathable fabrics in darker colours are thought to offer the best UV protection. Come rain or shine, hard hats are a site essential, but 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.
When working at high levels, the sun’s glare can be detrimental to the eyes in the long-term; its reflection off surfaces for extended periods of time making life particularly uncomfortable. To counteract this, 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. They have the added bonus of being considered something of a fashion statement; thus keeping the wearer safe and looking cool – a win-win situation if ever there was one.
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 keep a filled water bottle with them at all times 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 though, lengthy, unprotected exposure to the sun can also significantly age your skin. Therefore, as a reminder for our clients to take care in the sun this summer whilst on site, at Sika we have issued them with branded UV wristbands. These smart, unobtrusive items alert the wearer when they have undergone too much UV exposure by changing colour. As an additional protective measure, we are also providing free sunscreen for operatives.
Steve Jasper, a Field Technician at Sika, said the Sika UV wristbands and sun cream had been warmly received by customers. “One fitter told me we’d 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.” The wristbands are a simple gesture which aims to make a serious point about the dangers our customers face in not taking proper precautions when working outside this summer. Because when it comes to sunshine, you really can have too much of a good thing.