We’re Here to Make Our Industry Safer.
There is no doubt that construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the UK. Every year dozens of people die on site, several thousands get injured or develop work-related health problems. This is why improving health and safety on construction sites plays a key role in UCATT’s daily work and ongoing campaigns. We want employers to comply with the existing health and safety regulations, and we want workers to know their rights. Every worker also needs to have a good grasp of major workplace dangers so they can contribute to a better protection.
In the section Key Health and Safety Issues you find information about major health and safety issues such as:
- information on workplace hazards
- guidance on what each worker can do to prevent injuries and work-related ill health
- legal developments and
- information on and for safety reps.
You can also download the bi-monthly Health and Safety News bulletins which provide updates about ongoing developments and events.
Heat and Sun protection for workers
While most of us enjoy a warm and sunny day, too much exposure to the sun can have severe risks for our skin and health. People working outdoors, as do many construction workers, face an even higher risk as they are more exposed to the damaging ultraviolet rays (UV) in sunlight than people working inside.
Effects ultraviolet rays can have on the skin include sunburns, blistering, aging of the skin, and in the long run it can lead to skin cancer. More than 75,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, making it one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK with over 2,300 people dying from the disease each year.
Nevertheless, there are various ways to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging effects. Bearing the following tips in mind, you can considerably reduce the risks:
Protect yourself against the sun
- Protecting yourself starts with realising that a tan is not healthy, but evidence that the skin has already been damaged.
- Keep your top on. Wear a long-sleeved T-shirt made from a close-woven fabric that stops the UV rays coming through to your skin.
- Always use suncream, even if the sun does not appear to be strong.
- Use a Sun Protection Factor of 15 or higher. Don’t forget to apply the cream to the ears, neck and back of your hands.
- Take your breaks in the shade – and be particularly careful in the three or four hours around midday when the sun is hottest.
- Always wear a safety helmet on site, which also provides sun protection for your head.
- Never take your safety boots off on site even if it is hot.
- While workers of all ethnic backgrounds should be very careful, most at risk are those with a pale skin, with fair or red hair, a lot of freckles or moles and those with a family history of skin cancer.
- Check your skin regularly for unusual spots or moles that change size, shape or colour or that start bleeding; seek prompt medical advice if you do find anything of concern.
- For more information, check the SunSmart site of Cancer Research UK at sunsmart.org.uk.
Protect yourself against heat stress
Similarly to protecting yourself against the sun, you must take precautions against heat stress. When does it occur? Factors that facilitate the occurrence of heat stress include hot air temperature, humidity, and high work rate, which are common features on construction sites in summer. Heat stress arises when the body starts failing to be able to control its internal temperature. This takes place when due to the above circumstances the body produces heat but insufficient heat is lost, leading to an increased body temperature and a high amount of sweating as the body is attempting to cool down. Typical symptoms of heat stress include: heat rashes, nausea, fainting, muscle cramps, extreme fatigue and headaches. A heat stroke is the most severe effect and can result in death if not treated early.
However, the risk of heat stress can be reduced by not getting dehydrated, which is the case when the body is not getting enough liquid.
- The golden rule to avoid dehydration and heat stress is to DRINKING enough LIQUID. This is because by sweating the body loses vital water that needs to be replaced.
emember that thirst is a sign that the body is already being dehydrated.
nsure that you drink frequently in small amounts before, during (this however is not always possible, e.g. during asbestos removal) and after working.
s a guideline, the Food Standard Agency recommends to drink 1 to 2 litres of water every day. When being physically active or in hot weather, the fluid intake needs to be increased drinking up to one litre of water per hour.
s well as water, you can drink diluted fruit juice, diluted fruit squash and semi-skimmed milk.
e aware that water should be provided by the employer that is free from contamination (either from the public water supply or bottled water suspensers) and easily accessible. There should be adequate supplies, and taps and containers should be clearly and correctly labelled as drinking water.
ven though you might have less appetite when it is warm, do not forget to eat at regular intervals. Not eating properly can intensify health-related problems. Also try to eat cold food such as salads and fruit, which contain water.
on’t leave food in the sun. When it is hot, bugs can multiply even quicker than normally, which increases the risk of food poisoning.
Remember that these guidelines are simple to follow but have immense positive effects on your own health.