Outdoor worker sun protection project: a comprehensive applied research project to demonstrate the effectiveness of sun protection measures which influence high risk outdoor workers in Queensland to adopt sun safe behaviour practices 2010 – 2013
The QUT Outdoor Worker Sun Protection (OWSP) project undertook a comprehensive applied health promotion project to demonstrate the effectiveness of sun protection measures which influence high risk outdoor workers in Queensland to adopt sun safe behaviours. The three year project (2010-2013) was driven by two key concepts: 1) The hierarchy of control, which is used to address risks in the workplace, advocates for six control measures that need to be considered in order of priority (refer to Section 3.4.2); and 2) the Ottawa Charter which recommends five action means to achieve health promotion (refer to Section 2.1). The project framework was underpinned by a participatory action research approach that valued peoples’ input, took advantage of existing skills and resources, and stimulated innovation (refer to Section 4.2). Fourteen workplaces (small and large) with a majority outdoor workforce were recruited across regional Queensland (Darling Downs, Northwest, Mackay and Cairns) from four industries types: 1) building and construction, 2) rural and farming, 3) local government, and 4) public sector. A workplace champion was identified at each workplace and was supported (through resource provision, regular contact and site visits) over a 14 to 18 month intervention period to make sun safety a priority in their workplace. Employees and employers were independently assessed for pre- and postintervention sun protection behaviours. As part of the intervention, an individualised sun safety action plan was developed in conjunction with each workplace to guide changes across six key strategy areas including: 1) Policy (e.g., adopt sun safety practices during all company events); 2) Structural and environmental (e.g., shade on worksites; eliminate or minimise reflective surfaces); 3) Personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., trial different types of sunscreens, or wide-brimmed hats); 4) Education and awareness (e.g., include sun safety in inductions and toolbox talks; send reminder emails or text messages to workers);5) Role modelling (e.g., by managers, supervisors, workplace champions and mentors); and 6) Skin examinations (e.g., allow time off work for skin checks). The participatory action process revealed that there was no “one size fits all” approach to sun safety in the workplace; a comprehensive, tailored approach was fundamental. This included providing workplaces with information, resources, skills, know how, incentives and practical help. For example, workplaces engaged in farming complete differing seasonal tasks across the year and needed to prepare for optimal sun safety of their workers during less labour intensive times. In some construction workplaces, long pants were considered a trip hazard and could not be used as part of a PPE strategy. Culture change was difficult to achieve and workplace champions needed guidance on the steps to facilitate this (e.g., influencing leaders through peer support, mentoring and role modelling). With the assistance of the project team the majority of workplaces were able to successfully implement the sun safety strategies contained within their action plans, up skilling them in the evidence for sun safety, how to overcome barriers, how to negotiate with all relevant parties and assess success. The most important enablers to the implementation of a successful action plan were a pro-active workplace champion, strong employee engagement, supportive management, the use of highly visual educational resources, and external support (provided by the project team through regular contact either directly through phone calls or indirectly through emails and e-newsletters). Identified barriers included a lack of time, the multiple roles of workplace champions, (especially among smaller workplaces), competing issues leading to a lack of priority for sun safety, the culture of outdoor workers, and costs or budgeting constraints. The level of sun safety awareness, knowledge, and sun protective behaviours reported by the workers increased between pre-and post-intervention. Of the nine sun protective behaviours that were assessed, the largest changes reported included a 26% increase in workers who “usually or always” wore a broad-brimmed hat, a 20% increase in the use of natural shade, a 19% increase in workers wearing long-sleeved collared shirts, and a 16% increase in workers wearing long trousers.