Construction Work: The Unexpected Risk To Your Skin

As a construction worker, whether it is as a bricklayer or asphalt paving contractor, you know that you are going to be exposed to risks on the job.

In fact, there are so many of them, that they practically have to get in an orderly queue for your attention!

The most obvious risks are the ones you will most definitely be aware of.

They are things like falling and other workplace accidents. These account for most of the deaths within the construction business.

For more information about the ‘Fatal Four’ – the four most deadly accidents to happen in the construction industry workplace – see OSHA’s guidelines for more details. Also, see our blog on the subject.

The “Fatal Four” are, in case you had forgotten; electrocution hazards, struck by hazards, caught in or between hazards and of course, falling hazards.

However, not all hazards can be seen.

It might surprise you to know that skin cancer is among one of the unexpected dangers, facing construction workers today.

In a study done by a British university, it was found that 2% of all deaths from skin cancer were of people who had outdoor occupations.

Of this number, construction workers made up the bulk of those affected (44%). Second, were agricultural workers, with nearly a quarter of all skin cancer fatalities (23%). Thirdly and possibly less obviously, was the defense industry, accounting for 10% of the overall total.

But even within the construction industry as a whole, there was a breakdown regarding the distribution of professions.

Out of all the occupations within the business, the fatalities for laborers was triple compared to the mean average, taken for the industry overall.

The risks of skin cancer, within the construction industry, are hardly news.

In 1995, the Conference to Develop a National Skin Cancer Agenda, cited outdoor laborers as the key group to target, in the fight against skin cancer.

It is quite clear, from these findings, that the industry needs to do more to start protecting its workforce from the risk posed by skin cancer.

And that starts with each individual company, each manager and each supervisor.

The key weapon in the manager’s arsenal against skin cancer is education.

Exposure to the sun is the main factor in melanomas developing.

Fortunately, the prevention of the disease is not difficult. It just takes some time to get your crew into the habits of covering up and using skin protection, when at work.

And the efforts to eradicate the rates of skin cancer across the profession, has been taken up by the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA).

This union, representing road workers in the state of Nevada, was started to help promote better heath in the trade. With their aid, employers and workplaces can access training into identifying and preventing skin cancer.

For a few years now, the society has also been distributing protective headwear to workers. This is simply a flap, which attaches to a hard hat and helps to protect the back of the neck.


And, because their anecdotal research found that construction workers were resistant to the idea of buying sun cream, they decided to simply give it to them instead.

Help play your part in eradicating this deadly disease from the profession, by promoting both education and the use of sun cream on your job site.

Make sure your staff has access to sunscreen and protective headgear. Advise them about wearing long sleeves, in the sun.

Raise the issue during crew briefings.

In short, introduce a culture of protection against the sun, into your workplace.

For more information about spotting the signs of skin cancer and how to encourage your crew to take protection, please download our free e-book.