What’s New: School Shade Sails
In Australia, we know there is always more to learn about the dangers of UV radiation and the best ways to protect ourselves and our children. Local, state, and federal governments have a range of regulations and recommendations to ensure that schools, early learning centres, and other education and care facilities are doing everything to protect children from the harsh Australian sun. With new research and best practices constantly being developed here are a few recent changes affecting shade sails in schools around Australia.
The Ultraviolet Effectiveness Scale
In a recent update, Standards Australia changed the standards for shade fabrics including a new way of measuring the human UV protection offered: the Ultraviolet Effectiveness (UVE) scale. See our article on the UVE scale to learn more about it 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 South Australian, and Northern Territory Cancer Councils 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, because of 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 phased out shade sails in favour of roofed structures. 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, ridged or hipped construction. With growing safety concerns across the country surrounding people climbing up on top of shade sails, the South Australian model is set to spread around Australia.
Safety and Risk Assessment
Shade structures are designed to protect children from harmful UV rays, but if not designed, installed and maintained properly they can create a different hazard. Around the country, it is expected that shade structures to pass risk assessments, and in some cases also meet strict regulations.
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 the shade structure posts, and how accessible the sail is from adjoining structures, such as fences or buildings. To lower the severity of injuries from a fall there are also a range of recommendations regarding fall heights, fall zones and impact-absorbing materials.
Compliant school shade structures from Commercial Shade Sails
Commercial Shade Sails understands a lot of work goes into creating safe and fun environments children can learn and grow in. Our custom made 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 and local expert installers, we put safety first. Commercial Shade Sails also offers ongoing repair and maintenance services to help keep your shade structure compliant and looking great for years to come.