Perceptions of occupational heat, sun exposure, and health risk prevention: a qualitative study of forestry workers in South Africa.
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 e orts 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.