• QUT Outdoor Worker Sun Protection Project

    QUT Outdoor Worker Sun Protection Project – now completed and report available

    Being exposed to the sun is a big health issue for workers who spend all day, every day working outside. These outdoor workers often receive a high dose of ultraviolet radiation during work hours and have a higher than average risk of skin cancer. To understand what strategies, alone or in combination, are the most effective in preventing or reducing sun exposure, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology, Curtin University in WA and Cancer Council Queensland partnered with workplaces to put tailored sun safety plans in place using a participatory action research framework.

    The research team travelled to workplaces in the Far North, North West, Mackay and Darling Downs regions of Queensland. Workplaces were selected from the rural industry sector, building and construction sector, local government, and the public sector. For each workplace, a comprehensive sun protection plan was developed in consultation with workers and management teams. They contained a mix of strategies tailored to their specific needs and workplace environment. Implementation of the plan occurred over a 14 month period, and the research team provided ongoing support to workplaces through this time to ensure the successful implementation of strategies.

    The field work component of this  project was completed in September 2013 and each of the sun protection workplace plans were evaluated by looking at improvements in the workplace’s policy, environment and structures and changes in worker sun safe behaviour. The costs incurred by each workplace participating in the project were also examined.

    In a nutshell, the project found that:
    At baseline:
    •    Just over half (57%) of the workplaces had an existing policy relating to sun safety
    •    81% of workers were aware of a sun protection policy
    •    Only half (56%) of workers agreed it was enforced
    •    Only 6% of workers were offered incentives for sun safe behaviour
    •    65%  of workers had received training on use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
    •    54%  reported having received education and training on sun safety/skin cancer prevention
    •    93%  reported sunscreen as the most frequently supplied PPE
    •    However, sunscreen was reported as the least frequently used, with only 40% using it “usually or “always”.

    Changes employed during intervention
    •      8 workplaces (57%) – amended/adopted sun-safe policies
    •      6 workplaces (43%) – changes in natural or artificial shade
    •     11 workplaces (79%) – changes in PPE
    •      5 workplaces (36%) – changes in window tinting
    •      5 workplaces (36%) – changes to work schedule outside peak UV times (10am to 3pm)
    •    Outdoor workers who perceived their workplace provided enforcement of sun safety – more likely to protect themselves from the sun (p<0.01). The QUT Outdoor Worker Sun Protection Project was an applied research project funded by Queensland Health. The project commenced in 2010. Case studies of each workplace will be developed in collaboration with them and a report containing recommendations based on the findings of the research has been submitted to Queensland Health. A copy of the de-identified report is available to download below. For further information contact Melissa Stoneham at m.stoneham@curtin.edu.au or visit https://wiki.qut.edu.au/display/owsp