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 regulations and recommendations to ensure that schools, early learning centres, and other childcare facilities are doing as much as possible to protect children from the burning Australian sun. There’s always new research and best practices being developed, so here are a few recent changes affecting shade sails in schools around South Australia.

The Ultraviolet Effectiveness Scale

Standards Australia recently updated the standards for ‘Knitted and Woven Shade Fabrics’ including a new way of measuring the UV protection offered by shade fabrics: 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 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 Council South Australia 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 South Australian 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. These shade structure should be permanent, freestanding, ridged or hipped constructions, rather than a sail fixed to several independent posts. The structure must also be designed by a professional structural engineer, gain developmental approval and a Certification of Compliance with the Building Code of Australia. For more information on requirements and the approval process for shade structures see the DECD Design Standards

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. Local and state government bodies have requirements and best practises to ensure children are safe outdoors. 

The DECD Design Standards insists shade structure posts are 2.5 meters away from play equipment to prevent climbing and that the risks associated with a shade structure being accessible from adjoining structures such as fences or building be considered and assessed.

Last year the DECD updated their Outdoor Learning Environments Standard, these minimum recommended standards include fall heights, impact absorbing materials and risk assessment. The goal of the Design and Outdoor Learning Environments Standards is to prevent the climbing of shade structures as much as possible and lower the potential injury if someone were to fall from the structure so that everyone can enjoy a shaded and safe outdoor learning space.

Compliant school shade structures from Adelaide Shade Sails

Adelaide Shade Sails understands that a lot of work goes into creating safe outdoor spaces that children 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 government requirements. With a range of high-quality UVE ranked fabrics and local expert installers, we put safety first. Adelaide Shade Sails also offers ongoing repair and maintenance services to help keep your shade structure compliant and looking great for years to come.