How Construction Workers Can Better Protect Themselves from Skin Cancer

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A large portion of construction work is completed outside, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers exposed to the sun for long periods of time.  Along with that sun exposure comes an increased risk of skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer.

The deadliest form of skin cancer is melanoma and it is expected that 90,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease and 9,000 of those will be killed by the disease in 2018.  Not all of those cases will be from the construction industry, but it speaks to the real threat that skin cancer provides.

To help the construction industry reduce their risk of developing skin cancer, the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) has developed a document called Hazard Alert: Skin Cancer, which outlines how to protect your skin and how to detect early signs of the disease. You can find that document by clicking here, it’s a good hand out for your crew and a good topic for an upcoming toolbox talk.

Skin Cancer Detection

Like most cancers, early detection is the biggest key to recovery.  With skin cancers, the development of new moles is the most common warning sign that skin cancer is developing on your body.  CPWR states that you should look out for new or existing moles that:

  • Have an irregular border
  • Are not symmetrical or have color variation
  • Are bigger than a pencil eraser
  • Are itchy or painful

Another sign to look out for is if you have a bump, patch, or sore that bleeds, oozes, crusts, or doesn’t heal

How to Protect Your Skin

The first tip that the CPWR document is to wear sunscreen.  The avoidance of getting sunburned is a huge part of reducing skin cancer risk and an SPF of 30 or more can reduce your sunburn risk.

Protective clothing is another great way to avoid sunburns.  It may be counterintuitive for you to wear long sleeve shirts and pants in the summer, but they’re a very effective means of protecting the skin, because it doesn’t require you to re-apply sunscreen multiple times throughout the day. There are some good options for long sleeve shirts that wick away moisture, like Milwaukee’s Workskin shirts ($39.99 on Tool Barn). Be sure to cover your neck with a cloth flap attached to your hard hat, as well.

Staying in the shade is the 3rd effective means of avoiding sun exposure that CPWR notes.  Adjusting schedules to earlier in the day or overnight can keep workers cooler and out of the sun for longer.  When breaks are taken, find a shady spot or build a temporary shade structure.

In addition to skin cancer risks, there are plenty of other summer dangers on construction sites to be aware of, so make sure you and your crew is prepared to take on the heat.

Full story: Hazard Alert – Skin Cancer | CPWR