School Shade Sail Regulations

What’s New: School Shade Sails

In Australia, we are invested in understanding the dangers of UV radiation and learning how we can best protect ourselves and our children. Local, state, and federal governments have a range of shade regulations and recommendations to ensure that schools, early learning centres, and other childcare facilities are doing their best to protect children from the Australian sun. With new research and best practices constantly being developed here are a few recent changes affecting shade sails in schools around New South Wales.

The Ultraviolet Effectiveness Scale

Standards Australia recently updated the standards for ‘Knitted and Woven Shade Fabrics’ including a new way of measuring the human UV protection: the Ultraviolet Effectiveness (UVE) scale. See our article on UVE to learn more about the scale and what it means. Government departments use the Australian standards for shade fabrics to set clear measurable guides for the quality of shade, and how much of it must be available to children at schools, and other education and childcare facilities.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is already using the new UVE rankings to describe best practices for shade and sun safety. Other government departments are expected to follow suit soon, and high UVE ratings will go from a recommendation to a requirement.

Shade Sails vs. Shade Structures

The New South Wales Ministry of Health works closely with the NSW Cancer Council to develop sun safety regulations and guides for schools, early learning centres and other care facilities. The quality of shade and shade structures are decided on a case by case basis. As part of a site’s sun protection policy, shade assessments must be conducted regularly to establish the quality of existing shade or potential new shade solutions. Either a shade sail or another shade structure is considered viable if it meets the needs of the site.

The South Australian Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) has been phasing out shade sails since 2007 in favour of roofed structures for safety. These can still use shade fabric as the roofing material, but rather than a sail fixed to several independent posts, the shade structure is a permanent, freestanding, hipped construction. With growing safety concerns surrounding people climbing up on top of shade sails, the South Australian model could be coming to New South Wales next.

Safety and Risk Assessment

Shade structures are designed to protect kids from harmful UV rays, but if not designed, installed and maintained properly they can create a different kind of hazard. Local and state government bodies have requirements and best practises to ensure children are safe outdoors.

The NSW Department of Education insists that schools and other education and care providers adhere to state workplace health and safety requirements and complete appropriate risk assessments.

The NSW Cancer Council and Ministry of Health released ‘Under Cover: Guidelines for Shade Planning and Design’ to outline the minimum recommended standards for shade structures and systems. To prevent climbing and vandalism it recommends keeping posts a minimum of one meter away from other structures, including buildings, fences and trees, and not to place tables, chairs, play equipment or other climbable objects directly under the edge of a structure. Kidsafe NSW also recommends you consider fall heights, fall zones and impact absorbing materials to reduce the risk and severity of a potential injury.

Compliant school shade structures from Newcastle Shade Sails

Newcastle Shade Sails understands how much hard work goes into creating a safe and fun outdoor space that kids want to learn and play in. Our custom shade structures are designed to fit into your space and provide the shade you need while meeting safety requirements. With a range of high-quality and easy to maintain UVE ranked fabrics and local expert installers, we make it easy to put safety first. Newcastle Shade Sails also offers ongoing repair and maintenance services to help keep your shade structure compliant and looking great for years to come.