Sun and UV Protection

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

Purpose of this policy

To create environments and encourage behaviours which reflect a healthy UV exposure balance, ensuring some sun exposure for vitamin D while minimising the risk of skin cancer.

Note: Overexposure to UV during childhood and adolescence is a major factor in determining future skin cancer risk. Melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians aged 13-24 years.

Policy

Schools should:

  • support staff and students to use a combination of sun protection measures when UV index levels are 3 or above and allow sun exposure when UV levels are below 3
  • develop and implement policy and procedures promoting sun-safe practices in consultation with students, staff and parents
  • review and, if necessary update, the policy at least once every three years.

Schools can access the daily sun protection times (issued whenever UV levels are forcast to be 3 or about) to assist with the implementation of this policy, see: SunSmart for sun protection times.

UV radiation:

  • cannot be seen or felt
  • can be reflected off surfaces such as buildings, asphalt, concrete, water, sand and snow
  • can pass through light clouds
  • varies in intensity across the year (highest in Victoria from September - April)
  • peaks during school hours.

SunSmart - sun protection times

The daily sun protection times let you know when you do and don't need sun protection each day. They are available via the free SunSmart app and wedget, on the SunSmart and Bureau of Meterology websites and in the weather section of the newspaper.

Schools should consider:

  • accessing the daily protection times via the SunSmart app, adding the SunSmart website as a favourite or uploading the free SunSmart widget to the school homepage
  • enlisting students to help monitor the daily sun protection times and report them to the school community via the daily bulletin, assembly or PA announcments.

See:

Healthy levels of exposure

Overexposure to UV radiation can cause:

  • premature ageing
  • sunburn
  • skin damage
  • eye damage
  • skin cancer.

Too little exposure to UV radiation can lead to low vitamin D levels, affecting:.

  • regulation of calcium levels in the blood
  • is vital for healthy bones, muscle, and general health.

When UV levels are below 3 (generally from May to August in Victoria)

  • sun protection is not recommended unless near snow or other reflective surfaces
  • spend time outdoors in the middle of the day with some skin uncovered, to support vitamin D production
  • be physically active outdoors to help boost vitamin D levels
  • outdoor workers should use sun protection throughout the year, regardless of the UV level, as they have an increased risk of skin cancer.

When UV levels are 3 or above (generally from September to April in Victoria)

  • sun protection, (including hats, sunscreen, clothing, shade and sunglasses) should be used when outdoors
  • avoid deliberate and extended sun exposure
    • if outdoors for extended periods
    • when the UV levels reaches 3 and above.

Note: a few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure to arms and hands on most days of the week should be suffficient to maintain adequate vitamin D.

For more Vitamin D information, see:

SunSmart programs

School council and staff should:

  • develop and implement a UV communication strategy for the whole school community that includes:
    • newsletters
    • the school’s homepage / intranet
    • school diary
    • staff and parent meetings
    • school assemblies
    • excursions, camps, sports carnivals and events
    • student enrolment / new staff orientation.

Schools should consider becoming a SunSmart school. The SunSmart membership program aims to encourage a healthy UV exposure balance, ensuring some sun exposure for vitamin D, while minimising the risk of skin cancer.

Categories

The goals of these programs are to:

  • ensure students and staff maintain a healthy balance of UV exposure from the sun
  • work towards a safe school environment that provides shade for students, staff and the school community when required
  • assist students to be responsible for their own sun protection
  • ensure that families and new staff are informed of the programs
  • encourage the entire school community to use a combination of sun protection measures when UV index levels reach 3 or above
  • encourage safe UV exposure whenever UV Index levels are below 3.

For further information about these programs and a sample policy see: SunSmart’s Early Childhood and Primary Schools.

Sun protection measures

While some sun exposure is necessary for the production of vitamin D, it is important to keep in mind that all sun exposure carries a risk of skin and eye dmanage and skin cancer, especially for people with light skin colour. Extended and deliberate sun exposure without any form of sun protection when the UV Index is 3 or above is not recommended, even for those diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency.

For health and safety, schools should respond to each of the following UV protections measures during sun protection time (whenever UV levels are 3 or above).

Shade

The school council should ensure there are sufficient shelters and trees to adequately shade the school grounds, particularly in the following spaces:

  • where students congregate for lunch
  • the canteen
  • outdoor lesson areas
  • popular play areas
  • assembly areas
  • sporting grounds/pools.

The school council and principal should ensure there is provision for shade in planning for future buildings or grounds. Schools should consider the availability of shade when planning excursions and other outdoor activities / events. See:

Clothing

School uniforms or dress codes should include sun-protective clothing such as:

  • loose, cool, closely-woven fabrics
  • shirts with a collar and or higher necklines
  • tops with elbow length or long sleeves
  • longer style shorts and skirts
  • rash vests or t-shirts for outdoor swimming activities.

Note: Singlet tops offer little protection and are not recommended.

See:

Hats

Students and staff should be encouraged to:

  • wear hat styles which protect the face, neck and ears, including:
    • broad brimmed
    • legionnaire
    • bucket.

Note: Caps and visors offer little protection and are not recommended.

See: SunSmart’s Slap on a hat

Sunglasses

If practical, schools should encourage students and staff to wear close-fitting, wrap-around sunglasses that:

  • meet the Australian Standard 1067 (Sunglasses: Category 2, 3 or 4)
  • cover as much of the eye area as possible.

See: SunSmart’s Slide on sunglasses

Sunscreen

Schools should encourage and remind students and staff to:

  • apply SPF 30 (or higher) broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
  • apply a generous amount to clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes before going outdoors
  • re-apply sunscreen every two hours (whether or not the label tells you do to this) or more often when sweating or swimming
  • check and follow the use-by date stated on the packaging
  • store sunscreen below 30°C
  • do not rely on sunscreen alone as it does not provide full protection - combine with other sun protection measures
  • add sunscreen to the school booklist, as an optional extra, so a student then has their own sunscreen which is suitable for their skin
  • develop strategies that remind students to apply sunscreen before going outdoors (e.g. reminder notices, sunscreen monitors, sunscreen buddies, sunscreen stations near entry and exit points).

Students should:

  • be able to apply their own sunscreen
  • be reminded to reapply sunscreen
  • have access to sunscreen for all outdoor activities e.g. include in first aid kit.

Sunscreen (allergies and cross infection) - the risk of allergies and cross infection from sunscreen use is very small. For information about allergies, cross infection, nanoparticles, regulations and the latest research about sunscreen, see SunSmart's Slop on sunscreen

Role-modelling

As part of OH&S risk control and role-modelling, during sun protection times when the UV levels are 3 or above, staff are encouraged to:

  • wear broad-brimmed hats, clothing and sunglasses for all outdoor activities and duties
  • apply SPF 30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
  • seek shade whenever possible.

During sun protection times, families and visitors participating in and attending outdoor school activities should also be encouraged to use a combination of sun-protection measures.

Curriculum

Schools should ensure that education about skin cancer prevention and healthy UV exposure levels are included in the curriculum for all year levels, where appropriate. SunSmart have a number of free resources for schools, see: SunSmart primary school resources or SunSmart secondary school resources

Occupational Heath and Safety

UV radiation is a known workplace hazard for any staff working any part of their day outdoors. OH&S risk controls should consider the school environment including:

  • developing shade
  • modifying highly reflective surfaces
  • higher risk times in Victoria between September and April (inclusive)
  • outdoor programming schedules
  • dress codes.

See:

Related policies

Related legislation

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004

Department resources