Irish Independent – Breakfast-roll man builds up problems for the future

In the Celtic Tiger era he was known as ‘breakfast-roll man’ (made famous by comedian Pat Shortt) – a familiar sight in his high-visibility jacket buying high calorie takeaway food before a hard day on the building site.

Now a study has revealed that high numbers of Irish construction workers have lifestyle habits which are leaving them at risk of cancer and heart disease.

Screening of around 20,000 of these workers over the past two years revealed:

  • A total 44pc admitted smoking, compared with a national rate of 29pc.
  • Around 20pc revealed they binge drank more than 10 times in the previous month.
  • And 44pc were found to be overweight, with another 16pc clinically obese.

The findings emerged in screening carried out by the Construction Workers Health Trust, which is a free service run by unions representing construction workers.

Employers are asked to release the workers for 40 minutes during the day, without docking pay, so that they can attend a nurse.

The health concerns about these workers come against the background of the collapse in our building boom, which has left 55pc losing their jobs.

It has heaped further stress on these tradesmen and women, many of whom have little prospect of employment in the near future.

The screening showed that one third of workers rarely or never ate breakfast, with a sizeable proportion getting some take-away on the way to work, the journal ‘Health and Safety Times’ revealed.

Less than half were eating the recommended five portions of daily fruit and vegetables and nearly one in four were having fries or fast food more than three times a week.

When screened for blood pressure, 15pc had levels which were a concern and 21pc had high cholesterol. It found that most had no idea they had these risk factors for heart disease and stroke until they were screened.

Those whose test results need further investigation are referred on to a GP and workers who have contributed to the Construction Workers Pension Scheme can get €50 toward the cost of a doctor’s visit.

The results highlight that despite the image of construction work as physical, outdoor work, too many labourers are facing premature death.

Screening was also conducted on construction apprentices in various Fas and Institutes of Technology over the last two years.

The average age of those screened was just 21 years. It found:

  • 47.3pc were smokers.
  • 95.7pc drink alcohol and 76pc binge drink on a regular basis.
  • 31.3pc were overweight with 6.3pc being obese.
  • 8.2pc were found to have raised blood pressure.
  • 0.9pc had above normal cholesterol.
  • 5.2pc had impaired lung function.

Overall, the health of these apprentices is only marginally better than workers twice their age.

Source: The Irish Independent – 28.02.11
Journalist:   Eilish O’Regan