A recent study by researchers at the University of Manchester shows that construction workers are nine times more likely to get skin cancer than people working in other fields. Construction workers often find themselves laboring in concrete areas. That concrete reflects harmful rays, giving them a double-dose that increases the employees’ risks of getting cancer.
This raises an interesting legal question: who is liable when a construction worker gets skin cancer?
The answer often depends on several features.
Workers in all industries expect their employers to teach them about potential safety hazards. Lab assistants are taught to wear safety glasses and gloves. Nurses know to protect themselves from body fluids.
It’s an expectation that makes the employer responsible for training workers. That makes sense because we can’t expect every person to walk onto a job site knowing the same information.
Construction companies that don’t offer training programs that teach employees about the dangers of sun exposure should be held liable when those employees get sick. It was the company’s responsibility to train the employee. If the employee never receives training about this danger, then how can he be held responsible for the effects?
If the company offers a detailing training program that includes information about skin cancer risks, then some of the blame gets shifted to the employee. The employee gets even more of the responsibility if the construction company supplies UV-resistant clothing, sunscreen, and hats.
Some people are more susceptible to skin cancer than others. That’s a genetic fact that no one can contest. If companies don’t provide adequate training, though, none of those factors should matter. The employer is still responsible for the worker’s illness.