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August 9, 2016

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Case study: Healthy skin in construction

case study PDF

The construction sector and skin care might not always go hand in hand (excuse the pun). Here, Laing O’Rourke and Deb group talk about how their partnership is enhancing skin care across the sector.


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Throughout the construction sector, ensuring healthy skin amongst an on-site workforce is a significant factor in achieving compliance with health and safety legislation dictated by the HSE.

For Laing O’Rourke, a world-leading construction and engineering organisation involved with some of the UK’s foremost construction projects, surpassing their obligation to meet skin care compliance is a priority across each of its many major UK worksites. As such, the business has partnered with Deb Group to develop bespoke initiatives that help to cement Laing O’Rourke’s reputation for providing excellent workforce protection.

For Deb, a leading innovator and supplier of skin care products and hand sanitising solutions, the overarching message it applies to all the industries it caters for is to ‘Make Hands Matter in the Workplace’. In the case of Laing O’Rourke, that means using its expertise to help the company establish a structure within their business that drives the importance of hand hygiene to the end users – the workers – when on site.

“At Laing O’Rourke, health and safety is constantly under review. We can never stop improving the education and procedures that ensure the wellbeing of our workers,” said Silvana Martin, HSE Strategy & Best Practice Manager at Laing O’Rourke. “Communicating the importance of skin care is one element of this strategy that we are paying particularly close attention to. By establishing a partnership with Deb, we are ensuring our employees receive the most comprehensive training and access to products that will help to prevent skin care becoming an issue while they are at work.”

Skin Care Challenges

Construction and outdoor workers are subject to a wide range of threats to their skin, the consequences of which vary from mild, short-term irritation through to life-threatening long-term conditions such as skin cancer. Staff come into contact with many different contaminants depending on the building work they are doing – for example in construction, cement puts workers at risk of lime allergies and associated risks, similarly with lubricants and oils.

In terms of skin cancer, research commissioned by the Institute of Safety and Health (IOSH), the only chartered body for health and safety professionals, indicates that malignant melanoma kills nearly 50 people each year in the UK because of exposure to UV radiation at work. Outdoor workers, such as in the majority of construction projects, are approximately five times more likely to develop the disease.

According to the UV index established by the UK Met Office, when the UV rating hits level 3 – or ‘Moderate’ – the amount of solar UV radiator reaching the earth’s surface is strong enough to damage the skin, which can lead to skin cancer. During the warmer UK months, irrespective of any cloud cover, the UV rating frequently exceeds these levels, exposing outdoor workers to the threat. More statistics from IOSH serve to magnify why greater preventative action should be taken: although 90% of construction workers use sunscreen on holiday, only 59% use it at work. Furthermore, 70% of workers in large UK construction companies have not had any training on the risks of working in the sun. Through its collaboration with Deb, Laing O’Rourke is leading the drive towards addressing these alarming statistics.

While Laing O’Rourke is unique in the industry for directly employing the majority of its workforce, with operatives moving from site to site, it is critical the company ensures its health and safety message is constantly be reiterated.

The Collaborative Solution

In order to achieve this effective communication strategy, Deb and Laing O’Rourke deliver a programme of campaigns, built around the use of Deb skin care products, as well as through the provision of a host of educational resources.

For example, Deb is active in contacting each new Laing O’Rourke worksite, liaising with site managers to arrange for bespoke ‘toolbox talks’ – whereby Deb representatives speak with the workforce by means of a presentation designed specifically for Laing O’Rourke. For the workers, they not only learn more about the importance of frequently applying skin care products, but they also receive a certificate to include in their health and safety folders.

Deb and Laing O’Rourke are keen to ensure that workers’ apply skin products whenever necessary. This is achieved by making Deb products available and obvious across the whole site. For example, Deb Stokoderm® Sun Protect creams will be available from dispensers in a worksite’s designated debrief room, with supporting UV boards that make help to inform workers on the Met Office UV index and how, why and when sun protection cream should be applied.

Similarly in washrooms, the relevant Deb protect, cleansers, sanitisers and restore products will be readily available for staff to use and any point during the work day. These products include Deb Protect PURE, Pure Wash, Solopol® Lime and Light PURE – leading products from the Deb Stoko® range that serve to encourage the application of Deb’s four-step skin care programme in construction and industrial environments, and that are readily available to employees at designated skin safety centres on site.

Finally, Deb provides Laing O’Rourke with bespoke resources including posters, personal cards for staff and Laing O’Rourke branded skin care literature that is distributed amongst the workers.

“Preventing skin disease is about more than products or simply meeting health and safety legal requirements,” concluded Martin. “By establishing a partnership based on mutual trust and a commitment to educating on the issue, we believe that Laing O’Rourke and Deb are achieving the highest standards of skin safety for outdoor workers in the construction sector.”

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