Flashing a builder’s butt in the sun can kill, UK construction workers have been warned
As forecasters predict record high temperatures for the UK this summer – with bookmakers saying they could top 40C – outdoor workers are advised to cover up to guard against the deadly effects of UV rays .
READ MORE: Britons are preparing for a ‘warmer than average’ summer as the heatwave returns next week
The two million builders of the country are among the most in danger because it will be almost impossible for them to stay in the shade.
And no matter how hard they try to cover up, a body part has a traditional habit of sticking out – and it’s hard to reach with sunscreen.
Builders’ bottoms are a hot spot for sunburn health and safety officials and construction company bosses have given advice on how to avoid overexposure.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for people who work outdoors”.
He warns construction workers to keep their tops off and wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers the ears and the back of the neck.
They should stay in the shade as much as possible “during breaks and lunch, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and apply sunscreen at least a factor of 15 to any exposed skin”.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health said 1,700 people a year are diagnosed with skin cancer as a direct result of sun exposure at work.
Of these cases, 60 turn out to be fatal and 44% of deaths occur in the construction industry.
But a survey by skincare maker SC Johnson Professional before the pandemic found that only one in four outdoor workers wore sunscreen at work – although most applied it while on vacation.
According to Safety & Health Practitioner magazine: For construction workers, the risk is even higher than for the average outdoor worker, with UV rays reflecting off concrete, grass and ground. Fresh snow can even double a person’s UV exposure.
Jason Poulter, national construction manager for the Unite union, said builders work long hours “and it is absolutely essential that in hot weather employers take extra steps to ensure their wellbeing”.
These measures should include extra breaks, provision of free water and working under covered areas whenever possible,” he said.
Bad employers who don’t take extra action deliberately put the short- and long-term health of construction workers at risk.”
The TUC said bosses have a legal duty to protect “workers and should assess their exposure to the sun as thoroughly as if they were handling dangerous chemicals”.
Union officials recommend changing practices so that workers stay out of the sun from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – usually the hottest time of day.
In addition to lightweight, long-sleeved and comfortable protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen dispensers, bosses should also provide awnings on construction sites and shaded areas for breaks.
Bluestone Construction has already warned its 1,500 workers of the dangers of builder sunburn.
The Somerset firm has organized a national tour to inform workers of the dangers of overexposure.
John Rawlinson, then the company’s regional general manager for the South West, said at the time that not covering up from the sun was as dangerous as not wearing a helmet while on location.
“We want all of our employees to have the same sense of safety when it comes to skin protection as they do when it comes to wearing hard hats and protective footwear,” he said.
“Construction workers who undress in the sun and don’t use sunscreen are exposing themselves to harmful ultraviolet rays.”
At the time, some builders weren’t impressed, with one lamenting, “That’s rubbish. Are we expected to work in a three-piece suit?
“I can just see the hod bearers with a parasol over their shoulders rubbing themselves against Ambre Solaire.”
In 2015, French construction worker Adrien Hervé-Pellissier, then 24, claimed he was close to eradicating the builder’s bum problem after inventing new underpants.
“The underwear has a big elastic band on it, you know, so when you squat, we don’t have to see your ass,” he said then.
To get more TAUT stories straight to your inbox, sign up for one of our free newsletters here.