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The Australian standard for sun protective clothing AS4399:2020

Are you in New Zealand? Visit our specific page for the Australian and New Zealand standard for sun protective clothing AS/NZS 4399:2017.

Information for consumers and manufacturers

Information for consumers

Have you bought an item with the ARPANSA swing tag attached to it?

The ARPANSA swingtag. Text reads: Ultraviolet Protection UPF 50+. Excellent Protection . ARPANSA UPF rating. Materials tested to AS/NZS 4399

The swing tag shows that the material in the product has been tested to the Australian standard for sun protective clothing and given an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating by ARPANSA. The standard has been revised recently and published as AS4399:2020.

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 2020 edition of the Australian standard for sun protective clothing has three UPF classifications depending on the amount of solar UVR blocked. Each UPF classification has corresponding UPF ratings:

UPF classification UPF rating
Minimum protection 15
Good protection 30
Excellent protection 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 first 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. In 2020, the standard was further revised to update the body coverage and labelling 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 has one of 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 of your current location on the ARPANSA website.

Information for manufacturers and suppliers

Material-specific information from the standard for manufacturers

Below are some of the labelling information required by the Australian standard for sun protective clothing AS4399:2020 for different types of sun protective clothing:

Clothing products

“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.”

In addition to the above labelling, garment specific labelling is also required:

Sun protective hats 

“Hats that shade the face, head, ears and neck provide optimal protection.”

All-in-one clothing and non-fitted items and accessories

“The UPF rating does not consider the design of this item in relation to recommended body coverage. Wear in combination with other sun protective clothing that has a UPF rating.”

What are the major changes in the revised standard?

Major changes in the 2020 edition of the standard are:

  • This is now an Australian standard, and is no longer a joint standard with Standards New Zealand.
  • Removal of the exemption for women’s swimwear. Women’s one-piece swimsuits may no longer be promoted as being sun protective unless they meet the body coverage requirements.
  • Minimum brim requirements for hats have been clarified.
  • Allows an exception for all-in-one clothing that meets either all the upper body, or all the lower body coverage requirements, to claim a UPF rating with specific labelling to be applied.
  • Revised UPF classification system and clarification on labelling requirements. 
  • Umbrellas and shade structure suppliers/users are referred to AS 4174 Knitted and woven shade fabric standard.

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 and halter tops, bikini tops, briefs and G-strings. 

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

Head to tow diagram of faceless body showing appropriate body coverage using clothing

AS4399:2020 standard body coverage requirements for sun protection

What are the changes to the UPF classification system?

The classification system remains at four UPF ratings from the 2017 edition. The UPF classification system has been modified to remove the “effective ultraviolet radiation (UVR) penetration” column, and the word “protection” is to be added after the UPF classification of minimum, good and excellent.

UPF rating  UPF classification
15 Minimum protection
30 Good protection
50, 50+ Excellent protection

 

What are the minimum requirements for hats, gloves, non-fitted items and accessories?

Gloves, wraps, blankets, other non-fitted items, and accessories (such as sleeves, leggings, scarves, bandanas, brim and neck flaps) 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 2020 edition clarifies the minimum brim dimensions for the three types of hats which are considered sun protective – bucket hats, legionnaire hats and broad-brimmed hats. There is allowance for alternative types of hats which fulfil certain protection requirements. Caps and sun visors are still excluded.

Diagram of three faceless heads wearing hats, demonstrating appropriate brim widths

AS4399:2020 examples of sun protective hats and the brim width measurement location

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 2020 edition of the AS 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 4399:2020, which is published by Standards Australia.

The standards may be purchased from: