Whats New: Shade Sail Regulations for Schools
In Australia, we’re 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 recommendations and shade sail regulations for schools, early learning centres, and other childcare facilities to ensure they are doing the best to protect our children from the Australian sun. New research and best practices are constantly being developed, so here are a few recent changes affecting shade sails in schools around Australia.
The Ultraviolet Effectiveness Scale
Standards Australia recently updated their standard for shade fabrics including a new way of measuring human UV protection: the Ultraviolet Effectiveness (UVE) scale. See our post dedicated to the UVE scale to learn more about the scale and what it means.
Government departments across the country 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 Cancer Councils of South Australia and the Northern Territory and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) are already using the new standards and the 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 specific regulations surrounding shade sails and structures vary across the country. Queensland allows shade sails, with safety and design considerations passed down from Queensland Health. Western Australia banned fabric shade sails in schools in 2004 due to the constant need for repair after storms or vandalism. However, due to improvements in shade fabrics and anti-vandalism measures shade sails were allowed again in 2012.
In South Australia, the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) has been phasing out shade sails since 2007 in favour of roofed structures. These can still use shade fabric as the roofing material. A shade structure is a permanent, freestanding, ridged or hipped construction, rather than a sail fixed to several independent posts. With growing safety concerns across the country around people climbing up on top of shade sails, we might see the South Australian model spreading.
Safety and Risk Assessment
Shade structures are designed to protect children from harmful UV rays, but if not designed, installed and monitored properly they can create a new hazard. Around the country, it is expected that shade structures meet a range of requirements and pass risk assessments.
To prevent climbing of the structure there are different requirements state to state. They can include the amount of clearance from the top of play equipment to the sail, distance from play equipment to posts, and how accessible the sail is from adjoining structures, such as fences or buildings. And to lower the severity of injuries from a fall there are a range of recommendations for fall heights, fall zones and impact-absorbing materials.
Compliant school shade structures from Custom Made Shade Sails
Custom Made Shade Sails understands that it’s hard work to create safe environments children will enjoy learning and playing in. Our unique shade structures are designed to fit into your space and provide the shade you need while meeting government requirements. With a range of high-quality UVE ranked fabrics in vibrant colours, your new shade sail can be fun without compromising safety. Custom Made Shade Sails also offers ongoing repair and maintenance services to help keep your shade structure compliant and looking great for years to come.