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Open AccessArticle

Perceptions of Occupational Heat, Sun Exposure, and Health Risk Prevention: A Qualitative Study of Forestry Workers in South Africa

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Division of Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Observatory 7925, South Africa
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Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
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Environment and Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Pretoria 0084, South Africa
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Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0028, South Africa
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Primary Health Care Directorate, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Observatory 7925, South Africa
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Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom 2531, South Africa
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Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Atmosphere 2020, 11(1), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/atmos11010037
Received: 20 October 2019 / Revised: 22 November 2019 / Accepted: 13 December 2019 / Published: 28 December 2019
Occupational exposure to heat and solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) threatens the health and wellbeing of outdoor workers. These threats are likely to increase as a result of climate change. This study examined the perceptions of occupational heat and sun exposure and health risk prevention among forestry workers removing alien invasive vegetation in the Western Cape, South Africa. The linkages between workers’ perceptions of heat, solar UVR, and herbicide exposure and impacts under the current climate were investigated to better understand potential adaptation needs under a changing climate. Using focus group discussions and participatory risk mapping, heat stresses identified by workers were either environmental (e.g., lack of shade) or work-related (e.g., wearing required personal protective equipment). Several heat and solar UVR health impacts were reportedly experienced by workers; local indigenous knowledge and coping mechanisms, such as wearing ochre for sun protection, were used to prevent these impacts. Despite workers’ current efforts to protect their health, existing gaps and opportunities to improve working conditions were identified. Institutional structures for improved reporting of adverse events are imperative, together with awareness and education campaigns about the risks associated with working in hot and sunny environments. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; perceptions; outdoor workers; South Africa; herbicides; pesticides; temperature; solar ultraviolet radiation; forestry workers climate change; perceptions; outdoor workers; South Africa; herbicides; pesticides; temperature; solar ultraviolet radiation; forestry workers
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Rother, H.-A.; John, J.; Wright, C.Y.; Irlam, J.; Oosthuizen, R.; Garland, R.M. Perceptions of Occupational Heat, Sun Exposure, and Health Risk Prevention: A Qualitative Study of Forestry Workers in South Africa. Atmosphere 2020, 11, 37.

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