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UPF Ratings and the Australian Sun Protective Clothing Standard

By July 30, 2021September 29th, 2021No Comments

UPF Ratings and the Australian Sun Protective Clothing Standard

The team at Inside Out Safety endeavor to provide the best possible protection from the sun. By stocking brands such as Newcastle Hats and UVeto Australia, we offer the best UPF 50+ rated fabrics and sun safe designs to our customers.

Whenever you see the UPF 50+ symbol, you can rest assured that this product provides Excellent Protection from the sun, and complies with AS 4399:2020 Sun Protective Clothing – Evaluation and classification. (Please note that customisations to any of the standard styles may affect their UPF rating.)

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What is a UPF Rating?

Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is defined by the Australian standard AS 4399:2020 as the ratio of the average effective UVR (ultraviolet radiation) irradiance calculated for unprotected skin to the average effective UVR irradiance calculated for skin protected by the test material.

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This rating shows how effective the fabric is at blocking out the sun’s damaging rays and reducing the UVR exposure. Since UVR exposure is responsible for not only causing sunburn but also long lasting skin damage (including skin cancer), sun protective clothing with a high UPF rating is essential when going outdoors.

AS 4399:2020 Sun Protective Clothing

The Australian Sun Protective Clothing Standard received a major overhaul in 2017 and was tweaked again in 2020. It introduced minimum requirements for body coverage, updated the UPF classification scheme, and introduced minimum design requirements for headwear and accessories.
Inside Out Safety has always aimed to stock product ranges of the highest possible standard, and sun safe products are no exception. The hats we stock from Newcastle Hats and UVeto Australia are designed to provide the best possible protection from the sun, by including elements such as wide brims, neck flaps, and UPF 50+ rated fabrics.

In order for a hat to claim a UPF rating in Australia and comply with AS 4399:2020:

  • the material the hat is made from must be UPF rated 
  • the fabric component with the lowest rating used in the hat determines the UPF rating overall 
  • the design of the hat itself is subject to specific requirements: 
  • a minimum brim width of 6cm for bucket hat styles
  • 7.5cm minimum brim width for broad brim hats with a head circumference greater than 56 cm, or 6cm minimum for brim width for hats with a head circumference less than or equal to 56cm
  • Provide neck, face and ear protection for legionnaire style caps or alternative designs

Gloves must cover the entire back of the hand to the wrist. Accessories like the Brim ‘N Shade and the Hard Hat Flap meet compliance requirements as they are designed to provide additional protection.

Required Information to Comply with AS 4399:2020

The UPF rating applies only to the area of skin covered. Protection may be reduced if the material is wet, stretched or from the effects of normal wear or exposure to chemicals.
For best sun protection use hats, clothing that provides maximum skin coverage, sunglasses, sunscreen and shade.

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Sun Protective Hats

Hats that shade the face, head, ears and neck provide optimal protection. Brim widths 6cm or greater are recommended to shade the face, head, ears and neck. The hats stocked by Inside Out Safety with UPF ratings do not protection against reflected or scattered solar ultraviolet radiation.

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Gloves and Other Accessories

The UPF rating only relates to the areas of skin that this accessory covers. Accessories not in direct contact with skin do not provide protection against reflected or scattered solar ultraviolet radiation. The UPF rating has no relation to recommended body coverage, and the processes involved in manufacturing such as stretching or sewing may lower the UPF rating of a product. For optimal sun protection, accessories should be used in combination with other sun protective clothing that carries a UPF rating and classification in accordance with AS 4399.
For more information on the specifics of this standard, you can purchase a copy at the below link.

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Different UPF Ratings

Since the update to AS 4399:2020 Sun Protective Clothing, there are three different classifications available for UPF ratings. The minimum level of protection available is a rating of UPF 15. This allows a penetration of less than or equal to 6.7% UVR. This means that clothing rated UPF 15 will effectively only allow 1/15th of the suns rays to penetrate the fabric. UPF 30 is classified as providing good levels of protection, effectively blocking 96.7% of UV.
The Australian Cancer Council recommends UPF 50 and UPF 50+ which offer excellent protection. UPF 50+ is the highest classification available in Australia and blocks a minimum of 98% of UV radiation, allowing on 1/50th or less of the suns rays to pass through.

UPF Classification Effective UVR penetration, less than or    equal (%)
15  Minimum  6.7 
30  Good  3.3 
50, 50+  Excellent  2.0 

Putting sun protective clothing to the test

Inside Out Safety always checks with the supplier that fabric testing has been completed on the products we stock. This testing is done by ARPANSA – the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. They are the recognised authority within Australia and test in accordance with the Australian Standard AS 4399:2020 Sun Protective clothing – Evaluation and classification.

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What is the Difference between UPF and SPF?

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a specific rating used on sunscreen, while UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) classifies the sun protection offered by materials and clothing (including hats and other accessories).
The SPF rating of a sunscreen indicates the level of protection that the sunscreen provides against UVR. It is calculated by testing how long it takes an untanned patch of skin to redden when protected by a liberal coating of sunscreen.

SPF % UVR Blocked
4  75 
8  87.5 
15  93.3 
30  96.7 
50  98 

Inside Out Safety recommends that sun protective hats and accessories be used in conjunction with a good quality sunscreen with a rating of SPF 30 or above. Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before going outside and reapplied every 2 hours.
More information on SPF ratings can be found at the below link.

more info

What is the Best Sun Protective Clothing?

Sun Protective Clothing (including hats, gloves and other accessories) should be chosen to cover as much skin as possible. Clothing should incorporate design features like collars and long sleeves.
Wide Brim Hats like the Nullarbor Hat by Newcastle Hats, or hats with neckflaps like the Kalahari Hat from UVeto Australia are great examples of a sun safe hat.

The fabric used in sun protective clothing also plays a significant roll in the level of sun protection offered. Fabrics with a tight fabric structure like cotton drill offer a higher level of protection than fabrics that are loosely woven.
The protection provided will may decrease over time with worn, stretched or faded clothing. Light colours offer less protection than dark colours. Damp material will also provide less protection that dry material.

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