Skin health

When the sun beats down on the building site

Why protect against the sun?

Hans Keller (50) has already worked at a big German construction firm for 25 years. He works outdoors most of the time. Here he sees a growing shift in awareness among his colleagues: "In the past we often used to take our shirts off to work in the summer. Nobody gave a second thought to sun protection."

Professional bodies raise awareness

Since the recognition of multiple actinic keratoses and squamous cell carcinoma as occupational illnesses, professional bodies such as BG Bau – a statutory insurance organisation for the construction sector – are increasingly informing their members about measures to prevent sun-induced skin diseases. These include wearing protective clothing and applying sun protection cream, as well as workplace installations such as sun awnings. Individuals with skin changes due to the light are advised to see their company doctors and have frequent preventative checkups. These awareness campaigns and prevention measures aim to reduce the number of cases in the future, and enable them to be diagnosed at earlier stages.

Win-win for employers and employees

Hans Keller has been seeing his company doctor regularly for the last three years. "Even if I know the professional cooperative and accident insurance would pay to treat skin cancer in my case, I now do a lot more to protect myself from the sun than I did before," he notes. "My job is already physically demanding enough – I don't want to get skin cancer too."

Background Information

Due to their jobs, outdoor workers are exposed to much more solar UV irradiation than other workers. In Germany, outdoor workers account for around 2.7 million individuals, especially farmers, gardeners, construction workers, roofers and fishermen. A construction worker's annual UV exposure is almost five times as high as that of an employee working solely in closed premises, according to studies that have been conducted. In particular, working outdoors can trigger actinic keratosis and squamous cell carcinoma.

Knutschke, P., et al. [2007]: "Personal monitoring of UV exposure in outdoor workers", published (German only) by the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health [BAuA] (p. 121).