Masters Thesis

Occupational solar exposure at summer camp

Summer camps in the US gross more than $18 billion in revenue while providing over 14,000 individual programs. Summer camp counselors, like other outdoor workers, are at risk of occupational solar exposure. Occupational solar exposure increases an individual’s lifetime accumulation of solar radiation, leading to skin damage and higher rates of skin cancer. This study fills a gap in the research about the sun protection behaviors of summer camp counselors and their attitude towards provision of sun protection for themselves and the campers in their care. Counselors’ usage of sun protection measures were found to be inadequate. Most counselors were either unprotected or under-protected from occupational solar exposure. Female counselors were significantly more likely to use sun protection measures and reported a higher desire to protect themselves and their campers from solar exposure. Counselors who used sun protection measures for themselves were significantly more likely to feel responsibility for protecting their campers from solar exposure. These findings suggest that summer camps are not adequately protecting their staff from occupational solar exposure. This leads to the conclusion that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is failing to hold summer camps accountable to protect this group of employees from a known workplace hazard. The findings have implications for hiring, training, and risk management practices at summer camps.

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