The Australian and New Zealand standard for sun protective clothing

Information for consumers and manufacturers

Information for consumers

Have you bought an item with the ARPANSA swing tag attached to it? The swing tag shows that the material in the product has been tested to the Australian/New Zealand standard for sun protective clothing and given an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating by ARPANSA. 

What does the UPF rating mean?

The UPF rating indicates how well the material blocks ultraviolet radiation from the sun, also known as solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR). The higher the UPF rating, the more solar UVR gets blocked by the material and the less exposure to solar UVR you will receive. The Australian/New Zealand standard for sun protective clothing has three protection classifications depending on the amount of solar UVR blocked. Each classification has corresponding UPF ratings:

Classification UPF rating
Minimum 15
Good 30
Excellent 50, 50+

What is the sun protective clothing standard about?

The Australian/New Zealand Standard Sun protective clothing—Evaluation and classification (AS/NZS 4399) was introduced in 1996. The standard provides guidance for manufacturers and suppliers on communicating the sun protection properties of materials to consumers by use of a protection classification and an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating. UPF ratings are found on labels for swimwear, workwear, schoolwear and outdoor wear to assist consumers in selecting products that provide the best sun protection.

In 2017 the standard was revised to simplify the UPF rating system and to introduce body coverage information.

Why should I pay attention to the UPF rating?

Overexposure to solar UVR can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging. Your risk of developing skin cancer can be reduced by wearing well-designed clothing that not only covers your skin but is made of materials that effectively block out solar UVR.

Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. If you work outdoors or take part in any outdoor activity you need clothing made from materials with UPF ratings of 50. UPF ratings of 50 and higher provide all-day sun protection even for people with fair skin.

A garment can only protect the skin that it covers so protect your head and any exposed skin by wearing a hat, applying sunscreen and using shaded outdoor areas. Don’t forget to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes too. Sun protection is needed any time the UV Index is 3 or higher.

ARPANSA’s ultraviolet radiation index is a great way of finding out how much solar UV there is throughout the day.

You can find the UV index on the ARPANSA website.

Information for manufacturers and suppliers

Material-specific information from the standard for manufacturers

The below are some of the labelling recommendations quoted from the standard for different types of sun protective clothing:

Clothing products

“Clothing that covers more skin provides greater sun protection. The UPF rating on this item of clothing applies only to the area of skin covered and to the entire item and not individual components. Manipulations involved in clothing manufacture such as stretching and sewing may lower the UPF rating. Articles designed to cover the maximum area of the body are recommended.

Protection may become lower – 
(i)    where the material is in close contact with the skin, e.g. across the shoulders if stretching occurs;
(ii)    if the material is stretched;
(iii)    if the material is wet, and/or
(iv)    due to the effects of normal wear or prolonged exposure to pool chemicals.”

Headwear 

“This headwear does not provide protection against reflected or scattered solar ultraviolet radiation. Brim widths of 6 cm or greater are recommended.”

Gloves, wraps, blankets, non-fitted items and other accessories

“This 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. Manipulations involved in manufacturing such as stretching or sewing may lower the UPF rating. For optimal sun protection this accessory should be used in combination with other sun protective clothing that carries a UPF rating and classification in accordance with AS/NZS 4399:2017 Sun protective clothing.”

What are the major changes in the revised standard?

Major changes in the 2017 edition of the standard are:
•    a minimum level of body coverage is required for clothing to display or claim a UPF rating
•    a revised UPF classification system and labelling requirements
•    minimum requirements for hats, gloves and accessories

The standard excludes clothing with low body coverage, such as bikini swimwear, from making any sun protection claims regardless of the UPF rating of the material that the clothing is made from. Other excluded items due to inadequate body coverage include singlets, crop tops, halter tops, and briefs. 

The image below is one of the diagrams from the standard showing body coverage requirements. More detailed information is presented in the standard. 

AS/NZS standard body coverage requirements for sun protection

What are the changes to the UPF classification system?

The classification system has been reduced to just four UPF ratings. The names of the protection categories have also changed and are now called ‘classifications’.

UPF rating  Classification
15 Minimum
30 Good
50, 50+ Excellent

 

What are the minimum requirements for hats, gloves, and accessories?

Gloves, wraps, blankets, helmet flaps and women’s one-piece swimsuits may be promoted as being sun protective depending on design. Gloves are only considered sun protective if they cover the entire back of the hand to the wrist.

The revised standard specifies three types of hats which are considered sun protective —bucket hats, legionnaire hats and broad-brimmed hats which have brims wider than a specified minimum width (the diagram below is from the standard). There is allowance for alternative types of hats which fulfil certain protection requirements. Caps and sun visors are excluded. 

A drawing of three sun protective hats: a bucket hat, broad brimmed hat, legionnaires hat

AS/NZS standard-specified sun protective hats

What is ARPANSA’s role?

ARPANSA’s fabric testing laboratory, which is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), issues test reports that comply with the 2017 edition of the AS/NZS 4399 standard. ARPANSA test reports provide the UPF ratings of the materials tested but they do not evaluate the design or body coverage of the products.

Where to find the standard

Manufacturers should familiarise themselves with the full requirements of the standard for sun protective clothing, AS/NZS 4399, which is published by Standards Australia.

https://www.standards.org.au/