28th July 2020
Have you ever tried to bake a cake using a new recipe, but forgot a single ingredient that caused the whole thing to flop? A similar problem pops up when you try to make sure you've made your school as safe as possible but forget to include proper sun protection.
After all, heavy exposure to the ultraviolet rays produced by the sun increases the risk of skin cancer for people of any age (not to mention potential eye or skin damage, sunburn, etc.).
But this raises a new question. What options do you have to ensure you have sun safe schools?
Well, we're glad you asked. It's time to break down how you can make your school or childcare facility sun-safe! So without further ado, let's jump right in!
One of the first things you can do to keep the children and adults in your school safe is to make sure you meet the guidelines specified by the National SunSmart Schools Program. If you meet these guidelines, your school becomes eligible for assistance from the program with your protection efforts. As the icing on the cake, the certification you get with joining the program helps put your school on the top of parent's lists (as other schools could lack the certification you have).
One of the guidelines for receiving assistance from the program is to make sure your school works to minimise the time spent outdoors for students or teachers during parts of the years where UV rates are high. You also must teach and demonstrate sun safety so that students understand the importance of it. Finally, you'll need to create a written policy detailing your safety procedures and curriculum as well as review your policy to make sure it keeps up to code with the program's standards.
Your school (on the national level) is required to ensure that your dress code includes clothes that provide as much defence from UV rays as possible. While this doesn't mean long sleeves in the summer, covering up as much bare skin as possible and adding accessories like a hat (full-brim, not baseball caps) or sunglasses will work wonders.
Another requirement is that schools need to provide adequate shade for students, whether that shade is provided through natural means (like trees or other plants) or artificially (with structures). This proves especially useful if a child forgets their protective gear but needs to go outside for a particular lesson.
It's important to note that while there is a uniform guideline for sun safety on a national level, it varies from state to state. For example, while Queensland makes wearing a protective hat mandatory, New South Wales leaves it up to the discretion of the school or parent.
Some states also have emergency dismissal procedures in place to get students out if temperatures reach unsafe levels.
Now that you know what practices you need to have for schools, what steps can you use for regular childcare?
Well, one trick is to understand how UV radiation can "get to you". For instance, it can bounce off reflective surfaces like asphalt or metal to hit and damage your skin. You should keep track of these surfaces and factor them into your sun protection plan.
You should also keep track of what the UV levels are for the day. Whether it's through the SunSmart app (which is free!) or a reliable weather website, you can get a daily indication of where the UV levels are at with the UV radiation index.
The scale maxes out at 16, but when it reaches 3 and above (a moderate level), it's time to make sure all your preventative measures are in place.
As for these preventative measures, one helpful tool is sunscreen. You'll need to use SPF 30 or above to get adequate protection and remember to put more on every few hours to prevent it from sweating off your skin. It also doesn't hurt to implement a reminder system of some kind to make sure children get their sunscreen on before they head outside.
If you need an easy way to teach kids to remember the basic steps they can take for sun protection, use this three-part message. It stands for "slipping" a shirt on, "slopping" sunscreen on your body, and "slapping" a hat on your head. This was created by the Cancer Council in Australia and has since been expanded to include the Seek and Slide rules.
The Seek rule involves "seeking" shade, which is one of our personal favourites since seeking shade allows us to operate outdoors without getting full blast from the sun. Slide, on the other hand, refers to putting on sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun damage. Make sure the sunglasses provide the proper level of protection however: standard "dress" sunglasses may not do the trick.
However, in some rare cases, a child will have an allergic reaction to sunscreen or you'll have a parent who doesn't want their child using it. In these cases, there are extra steps you can take to ensure the child stays safe from UV rays.
One such tool is getting special UV-reflective covers over the windows of your school. This allows you to keep windows open and get the natural light in while the cover deflects the harmful radiation away from the building.
Another trick is to purchase things like portable umbrellas to provide mobile shade for kids on the go. Certain companies will also create special outdoor covers to use for shade if you don't want to DIY it.
Also, make sure that the protective equipment the child does wear is up to snuff (like the sunglasses we mentioned earlier). Remind parents that children need very little direct sunlight exposure to get their Vitamin D requirement as well, and should keep their protective gear on at all times.
And there you have it! Now that you know how to make your school or childcare facility safe from UV radiation, you're free to engage in day-to-day activities without the fear of skin damage! And if you want to know more about how to prevent sun damage and keep your facility safe, give us a shout and let us know how we can help!
Please note the contents of this post is information only and general in nature.
If you require advice it is best to contact one of our shade specialists who can review your particular circumstances and then provide tailored advice according to your needs.
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