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Outdoor workers shun sun protection

Tuesday 23 Apr 2013 10:35a.m.

Outdoor workers shun sun protection

By Tamara McLean

The sun protection slogan Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap is being dangerously ignored by two thirds of Kiwis working in the great outdoors, with farmers and builders among the worst culprits.

A University of Otago study of more than 1000 workers across nine outdoor occupations has revealed that sun smart messages are not getting through to those who spend their lives working outside.

Just one in three outdoor workers wear sunblock or a suitably protective hat while at work, despite being more at risk of sun damage than other people.

Construction and forestry workers and people employed on farms were the least likely to protect themselves.

Even vineyard staff, who scored best, fell woefully short with protection levels of 3.2 out of a possible 8, says study lead author Associate Professor Tony Reeder.

"This is terribly disappointing given protection guidelines have been in place around this since 1994," he told NZ Newswire.

"Sadly, very, very little seems to have been implemented."

The results, published in the international Journal of Occupational Health, reported across nine industries: forestry, roading, sawmilling, postal delivery, viticulture, landscaping, construction, horticulture and farming. These workers make up 15 percent of the workforce.

Dr Reeder, who heads the university's cancer behavioural research unit, said the worrying results were symptomatic of a general lack of concern around occupational health in New Zealand.

"There are other things at play too, I suspect a bit of a macho attitude with outdoor work and also there's still the perception that a tan is attractive."

He said a drastic shift in workplace culture was needed to start actively encouraging people to wear sunblock and hats, or work under movable shades.

The research unit has used its findings to spearhead change in a submission to the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety.

Skin cancer makes up 80 percent of all new cancers diagnosed in New Zealand each year.

Of the 70,000 skin cancers reported, 2000 are melanoma, an aggressive disease that kills 400 New Zealanders annually.

NZN

 
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