Three-fifths of builders “would rub sun cream on a workmate”

Almost 60 per cent of construction workers would be happy to slap sun cream on a building site buddy, a survey suggests.

When asked about attitudes to sun protection, 357 out of 625 Jewson customers said they would help their workmate apply sun cream.

However, just over a third said they never apply their own sun cream when working outdoors on a sunny day. This compares to only seven per cent who never apply sun cream when on holiday abroad.

Worryingly, more than half of respondents said they had been sun burnt in the past two years. Being sunburnt just once every two years triples the risk of skin cancer.

Peter Young, South West Area Director at Jewson, said:

“It’s great to see that so many tradespeople are up for helping out their mates on site – within reason! However, there’s a lot of work still to do to keep builders safe in the sun.

“We know builders don’t have much time on their hands, so prioritising something like sun care isn’t always easy – especially given Britain’s unpredictable weather. But with construction workers often outside for long periods of time, they can be at a much higher risk of exposure to UV rays than most.

“We’re showing our support to the NHS England South Cover Up Mate campaign to help raise awareness of the dangers of being in the sun without protection.”

NHS England South West Medical Director, Caroline Gamlin, said:

“It’s very encouraging that even in the rough tough world of construction many builders are willing to lather sun cream on work pals.

“Attitudes have already changed a lot since the days of “sun’s out, shirts off.

“But skin cancer deaths are rising, especially in men who work outdoors, so it’s crucial to cover up from the sun – not just for yourself but also your family.”

Graham Wailes from IOSH, said:

“Our research found that around 50 people in Britain are killed every year by malignant melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – caused by sun exposure at work.

“Sadly this is absolutely preventable, so we want businesses to take action by signing our ‘No Time To Lose’ pledge and introducing simple steps in the workplace. They can get lots of free information from our website.”

Jewson is supporting the NHS England South Cover Up, Mate campaign, which is targeting male agricultural and construction workers, gardeners and sports-players because of their prolonged exposure to the sun.

Research indicates that men are worse at protecting themselves from the sun. A YouGov survey, commissioned by Cancer Research UK, found that more than 50 per cent more men than women forget to protect their skin and, worryingly, 75 per cent more men than women are not worried about getting sunburnt.

Latest statistics from Cancer Research show that since the late 1970s, skin cancer incidence rates have more than quadrupled (360% increase) in the UK. The increase is larger in males where rates have increased more than six-fold (544% increase), than in females where rates have more than tripled (263% increase).

A recent Imperial College study, commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) estimated that construction workers make up the highest number of deaths (44%) caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun at work in Britain, followed by agriculture workers (23%).

Public Health England statistics show that many local areas across the South have higher rates of malignant melanoma than the national average. Between 2005 and 2014, incidence of malignant melanoma in men rose by 45.3% in the South West. Deaths by malignant melanoma in this time also rose by 22.4% in the South West.

Cancer Research stats show that:

  • A tan is a sign of skin damage – not health – and may offer only factor 3 protection.
  • getting painful sunburn, just once every two years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer;
  • you’re at higher risk of skin cancer if you have fair skin, moles or freckles, red or fair hair, or light-coloured eyes; and
  • the highest risk months in the UK are May to September when UV rates are higher.

Official NHS advice on staying safe in the sun is:

  • spend time in the shade if you can
  • make sure you never burn
  • cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
  • use at least factor 15 sunscreen

The earlier skin cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat, so see your GP as soon as possible if any moles or freckles change size or shape.