A CHOICE investigation has uncovered gaping holes in the regulation of the shadecloth design and installation industry which potentially compromises the sun safety of childcare centres.
Even those centres certified as SunSmart by the voluntary Cancer Council Australia program may have unwittingly bought shadecloth with a low level of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) protection or had it incorrectly installed.
In Queensland and Victoria shade installers require a builders’ licence, in itself no guarantee of expertise in this area. In other states and territories virtually anyone can be in the business despite the environmental, planning and public health issues involved.
More than 3,500 childcare centres around Australia have SunSmart accreditation but while the Cancer Council recommends shade audits to check the effectiveness of shade structures, there’s little evidence these take place. Regulation is left up to the states.
Shade audits of seven childcare centres in Australia found none complied fully with the regulations despite two being SunSmart certified. The problems included inadequate UV protection levels of the shadecloth and poor shade design.
CHOICE says the problem is exacerbated by buck passing as to who is actually responsible for issues relating to shade and checking that shadecloths have at least a 94 per cent UVR block.
In NSW Department of Community Services (DoCs) regulations specify childcare centres must provide ‘adequate shade’ based on Cancer Council NSW & NSW Health Department guidelines but using a shadecloth with less than 94 per cent UVR block is not necessarily grounds for non-compliance.
“Accountability is hard to pin down. Responsibility for shade provision falls across different organisations whose resources are already overstretched to adequately police sun protection policies for childcare centres,” said CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.
CHOICE would like to see state governments better monitor child care centres’ compliance with the Cancer Council guidelines. Shade audits and installation of any shadecloth, as required by those guidelines, should be enforced as a condition of licensing for child care centres.
NOTE: This is a copy of the summary article from Choice Magazine's Website. www.choice.com.au