Sun safety in outdoor settings
Queensland’s climate encourages an outdoor lifestyle, but exposure to the sun comes with risks. Skin damage can occur after 10 minutes exposure when the ultraviolet (UV) index is at 3 or above. In Queensland the UV index is 3 or above all year round, even in winter.
For this reason, well planned and designed community facilities should be fit for purpose and provide a benefit to the community. The provision of shade in community projects integrates sun protection along with improved functionality, use and enjoyment of community spaces.
Shade solutions must also offer thermal comfort to encourage people to use it. Consideration should be given to:
- air temperature
- air movement
- radiated heat from surrounding structures.
Queensland has 4 climate zones defined by the Australian Building Codes Board. A climate and comfort checklist is available in the Shade and sun safety in public facilities guidelines.
Permanent or temporary shade
Permanent shade can include vegetation (natural shade) or structures (built shade) such as pergolas or roof extensions and should be designed to last for 10 – 20 years. It’s recommended for:
- entry zones to buildings
- service zones
- public congregation areas
- children’s playgrounds.
Temporary shade is designed and built for a time-limited event or as an interim measure. Guidelines are available to assist with assessing built shade materials and structures or natural shade solutions.
Events and mass public gatherings
It is vital that event organisers consider options to reduce the risk of UV exposure for staff, volunteers and attendees. The Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires employers to ensure employees (including volunteers) can work safely and without risk to their health, this includes minimising UV exposure. Below are some steps to make sure every event is sun safe.
- easy access to SPF 30+, broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
- reapply every 2 hours
- use the SunSmart sunscreen calculator to estimate amount required.
- consider shade patterns at different times of the day
- choose low-level reflectivity for shade materials
- make available in places where people may spend lengthy periods, e.g. queues.
- should offer as much skin coverage as possible
- choose darker coloured fabric with an excellent UPF (ultraviolet protection factor)
- increase comfort levels with loose-fitting, lightweight fabric
- don't forget sun protective hats and sunglasses.
- provide and display sun safety advice and resources
- communicate UV index to staff and volunteers
- encourage use of the SunSmart app.
Parks, recreation areas and sporting grounds
Shade requirements will depend on the different types of use at each outdoor setting and the activities taking place within the space.
Shade is required all year round for children’s play areas, with natural shade (trees and vegetation) being the preferred option. Shade structures must comply with the Australian Standard for Playground Equipment and Surfacing (AS 4685:2014). Kidsafe Queensland has a range of resources to help design safe playground areas.
Sporting grounds should allow for different users, such as spectators, players and staff/volunteers with consideration given to the length of time an area is used for. A mix of natural and built shade solutions might be appropriate. For example, an awning over a refreshment area, a shade structure over player off-field areas, or tree shading a spectator area.
Find specific recommendations in the Technical guidelines for shade provision in public facilities.
- Queensland Government—Creating shade at public facilities (PDF 366 kB)
- Queensland Government—Understanding the sun’s path (PDF 392 kB)
- Department of Transport and Main Roads—Shade and street trees
- Cancer Council NSW—Guidelines to shade—a practical guide for shade development in New South Wales
- Cancer Council WA—The Shade Handbook: A practical guide for shade development in Western Australia