With our great climate and open spaces, sports and recreation is part of our way of life. But spending time outdoors exposes us to harmful UV radiation that increases our risk of skin cancer.
Many outdoor sports happen when UV radiation is at its highest: 10am-2pm and 11am-3pm Daylight Saving Time. On a clear summer day in NSW, it can take just 15 minutes to get sunburnt.
While the risk is higher in summer, skin damage from the sun can happen throughout the year. Even in winter some parts of NSW have UV levels of three or above for some or all of the day, so sun protection is still important.
Many activities take place in environments with little or no shade and high levels of UV radiation are reflected from surfaces such as cement, sand or water.
Australian children are particularly at risk. Exposure to UV radiation in childhood and adolescence is a key risk factor for developing skin cancer later on.
Safety and responsibility
Every organisation involved in conducting sport and recreation events has a legal responsibility to ensure a safe environment for everyone involved – competitors, officials and spectators. Providing a safe environment includes protecting people from the harmful effects of UV radiation.
Developing a sun protection policy
Cancer Council NSW has developed a comprehensive sun protection policy which sporting groups can adopt as their own.
A sun protection policy is one of the best ways to ensure your organisation is fulfilling its duty of care with regard to sun protection. By developing and implementing a policy, you will provide members and supporters with guidelines to improve their sun protection and reduce their risk of skin cancer.
A sun protection policy should include the following key elements:
- Outdoor events, games and training are scheduled wherever possible outside of peak UV times (10am – 2pm and 11am-3pm daylight saving time).
- Sun safety is promoted when the UV levels are 3 or above. Check the SunSmart UV App.
- Players, officials and spectators are encouraged to use shade from trees and buildings.
- The organisation provides shade structures, and individuals are also encouraged to bring their own shade, eg, umbrellas.
- The organisation provides or promotes sun protection items such as sun-safe clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen, for players, coaches and officials.
Communicating your sun protection policy
Communicating the new policy and the importance of sun protection is critical to ensuring that the policy is implemented.
You can do this by:
- Officially launching the policy so that every level of the organisation is aware it has been endorsed by the managing committee.
- Including a copy of the sun protection policy with every offer of employment and at enrolment for new members.
- Ensuring the policy is easy to find on the club website.
- Including sun protection information in your newsletters and new member brochures.
- Adding the SunSmart UV Alert to your clubs’ website.
- Promoting sun protection at events and meets over the loud speakers.
What should you do to improve sun protection behaviours
- Complete the 10-Step Sun Protection Checklist for Sporting Organisations to see whether or not you are implementing best practice sun protection in your club.
- Based on the answers to this, make a list of the changes you would like to implement for each sun protection recommendation.
- Keeping in mind your budget, develop a plan and timeframe to achieve your recommendations for change (for example, ‘we need a more sun protective uniform by the start of the next season’).
- Think about any issues or potential resistance that might arise from players, coaches and officials and how you will overcome these.
- Monitor your progress.
- Encourage senior athletes, coaches/trainers, referees and officials to role model sun protective behaviour to influence participants in the junior sports.
- Ensure that sun protection is incorporated in the planning of all carnivals/meets.