Application of an appearance-based intervention to improve sun protection outcomes of outdoor workers in Queensland, Australia

Saris, Katja (2012) Application of an appearance-based intervention to improve sun protection outcomes of outdoor workers in Queensland, Australia. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Outdoor workers are exposed to high levels of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and may thus be at greater risk to experience UVR-related health effects such as skin cancer, sun burn, and cataracts. A number of intervention trials (n=14) have aimed to improve outdoor workers’ work-related sun protection cognitions and behaviours. Only one study however has reported the use of UV-photography as part of a multi-component intervention. This study was performed in the USA and showed long-term (12 months) improvements in work-related sun protection behaviours. Intervention effects of the other studies have varied greatly, depending on the population studied, intervention applied, and measurement of effect. Previous studies have not assessed whether: - Interventions are similarly effective for workers in stringent and less stringent policy organisations; - Policy effect is translated into workers’ leisure time protection; - Implemented interventions are effective in the long-term; - The facial UV-photograph technique is effective in Australian male outdoor workers without a large additional intervention package, and; - Such interventions will also affect workers’ leisure time sun-related cognitions and behaviours.

Therefore, the present Protection of Outdoor Workers from Environmental Radiation [POWER]-study aimed to fill these gaps and had the objectives of: a) assessing outdoor workers’ sun-related cognitions and behaviours at work and during leisure time in stringent and less stringent sun protection policy environments; b) assessing the effect of an appearance-based intervention on workers’ risk perceptions, intentions and behaviours over time; c) assessing whether the intervention was equally effective within the two policy settings; and d) assessing the immediate post-intervention effect. Effectiveness was described in terms of changes in sun-related risk perceptions and intentions (as these factors were shown to be main precursors of behaviour change in many health promotion theories) and behaviour.

The study purposefully selected and recruited two organisations with a large outdoor worker contingent in Queensland, Australia within a 40 kilometre radius of Brisbane. The two organisations differed in the stringency of implementation and reinforcement of their organisational sun protection policy. Data were collected from 154 male predominantly Australian born outdoor workers with an average age of 37 years and predominantly medium to fair skin (83%). Sun-related cognitions and behaviours of workers were assessed using self-report questionnaires at baseline and six to twelve months later. Variation in follow-up time was due to a time difference in the recruitment of the two organisations. Participants within each organisation were assigned to an intervention or control group. The intervention group participants received a one-off personalised Skin Cancer Risk Assessment Tool [SCRAT]-letter and a facial UV-photograph with detailed verbal information. This was followed by an immediate post-intervention questionnaire within three months of the start of the study. The control group only received the baseline and follow-up questionnaire.

Data were analysed using a variety of techniques including: descriptive analyses, parametric and non-parametric tests, and generalised estimating equations. A 15% proportional difference observed was deemed of clinical significance, with the addition of reported statistical significance (p<0.05) where applicable.

Objective 1: Assess and compare the current sun-related risk perceptions, intentions, behaviours, and policy awareness of outdoor workers in stringent and less stringent sun protection policy settings. Workers within the two organisations (stringent n=89 and less stringent n=65) were similar in their knowledge about skin cancer, self efficacy, attitudes, and social norms regarding sun protection at work and during leisure time. Participants were predominantly in favour of sun protection. Results highlighted that compared to workers in a less stringent policy organisation working for an organisation with stringent sun protection policies and practices resulted in more desirable sun protection intentions (less willing to tan p=0.03) ; actual behaviours at work (sufficient use of upper and lower body protection, headgear, and sunglasses (p<0.001 for all comparisons), and greater policy awareness (awareness of repercussions if Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was not used, p<0.001)). However the effect of the work-related sun protection policy was found not to extend to leisure time sun protection.

Objective 2: Compare changes in sun-related risk perceptions, intentions, and behaviours between the intervention and control group. The effect of the intervention was minimal and mainly resulted in a clinically significant reduction in work-related self-perceived risk of developing skin cancer in the intervention compared to the control group (16% and 32% for intervention and control group, respectively estimated their risk higher compared to other outdoor workers: , p=0.11). No other clinical significant effects were observed at 12 months follow-up.

Objective 3: Assess whether the intervention was equally effective in the stringent sun protection policy organisation and the less stringent sun protection policy organisation. The appearance-based intervention resulted in a clinically significant improvement in the stringent policy intervention group participants’ intention to protect from the sun at work (workplacetime interaction, p=0.01). In addition to a reduction in their willingness to tan both at work (will tan at baseline: 17% and 61%, p=0.06, at follow-up: 54% and 33%, p=0.07, stringent and less stringent policy intervention group respectively. The workplacetime interaction was significant p<0.001) and during leisure time (will tan at baseline: 42% and 78%, p=0.01, at follow-up: 50% and 63%, p=0.43, stringent and less stringent policy intervention group respectively. The workplace*time interaction was significant p=0.01) over the course of the study compared to the less stringent policy intervention group. However, no changes in actual sun protection behaviours were found.

Objective 4: Examine the effect of the intervention on level of alarm and concern regarding the health of the skin as well as sun protection behaviours in both organisations. The immediate post-intervention results showed that the stringent policy organisation participants indicated to be less alarmed (p=0.04) and concerned (p<0.01) about the health of their skin and less likely to show the facial UV-photograph to others (family p=0.03) compared to the less stringent policy participants. A clinically significantly larger proportion of participants from the stringent policy organisation reported they worried more about skin cancer (65%) and skin freckling (43%) compared to those in the less stringent policy organisation (46%,and 23% respectively , after seeing the UV-photograph).

In summary the results of this study suggest that the having a stringent work-related sun protection policy was significantly related to for work-time sun protection practices, but did not extend to leisure time sun protection. This could reflect the insufficient level of sun protection found in the general Australian population during leisure time. Alternatively, reactance caused by being restricted in personal decisions through work-time policy could have contributed to lower leisure time sun protection. Finally, other factors could have also contributed to the less than optimal leisure time sun protection behaviours reported, such as unmeasured personal or cultural barriers. All these factors combined may have lead to reduced willingness to take proper preventive action during leisure time exposure. The intervention did not result in any measurable difference between the intervention and control groups in sun protection behaviours in this population, potentially due to the long lag time between the implementation of the intervention and assessment at 12-months follow-up. In addition, high levels of sun protection behaviours were found at baseline (ceiling effect) which left little room for improvement. Further, this study did not assess sunscreen use, which was the predominant behaviour assessed in previous effective appearance-based interventions trials. Additionally, previous trials were mainly conducted in female populations, whilst the POWER-study’s population was all male. The observed immediate post-intervention result could be due to more emphasis being placed on sun protection and risks related to sun exposure in the stringent policy organisation. Therefore participants from the stringent policy organisation could have been more aware of harmful effects of UVR and hence, by knowing that they usually protect adequately, not be as alarmed or concerned as the participants from the less stringent policy organisation.

In conclusion, a facial UV-photograph and SCRAT-letter information alone may not achieve large changes in sun-related cognitions and behaviour, especially of assessed 6-12 months after the intervention was implemented and in workers who are already quite well protected. Differences found between workers in the present study appear to be more attributable to organisational policy. However, against a background of organisational policy, this intervention may be a useful addition to sun-related workplace health and safety programs.

The study findings have been interpreted while respecting a number of limitations. These have included non-random allocation of participants due to pre-organised allocation of participants to study group in one organisation and difficulty in separating participants from either study group. Due to the transient nature of the outdoor worker population, only 105 of 154 workers available at baseline could be reached for follow-up. (attrition rate=32%). In addition the discrepancy in the time to follow-up assessment between the two organisations was a limitation of the current study.

Given the caveats of this research, the following recommendations were made for future research: - Consensus should be reached to define "outdoor worker" in terms of time spent outside at work as well as in the way sun protection behaviours are measured and reported.

  • Future studies should implement and assess the value of the facial UV-photographs in a wide range of outdoor worker organisations and countries.

  • More timely and frequent follow-up assessments should be implemented in intervention studies to determine the intervention effect and to identify the best timing of booster sessions to optimise results.

  • Future research should continue to aim to target outdoor workers’ leisure time cognitions and behaviours and improve these if possible.

Overall, policy appears to be an important factor in workers’ compliance with work-time use of sun protection. Given the evidence generated by this research, organisations employing outdoor workers should consider stringent implementation and reinforcement of a sun protection policy. Finally, more research is needed to improve ways to generate desirable behaviour in this population during leisure time.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 53265
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Janda, Monika, Kimlin, Michael, & Tenkate, Thomas
Keywords: appearance-based intervention, behaviour, facial UV-photograph, intention, intervention, leisure time, organisation, outdoor workers, quantitative, risk perception, skin cancer prevention, sun safety policy, theory, work time
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 22 Aug 2012 01:57
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 01:59

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