Picture this: it’s a fresh summer morning, the sun shining high and bright, and you’re just about to kick-off your outdoor programming & activities. There's no doubt that outdoor activities and recreation are the best way to make the most of what this season has to offer. But here's the deal – while soaking up the sun, and encouraging others to do so, can be amazing, we can't ignore its potential skin-damaging and overall health risks.
If you're someone responsible for organizing and leading outdoor activities, we've got your back! Sun safety is no joke, and it's crucial to keep your participants protected from those blazing UV rays and heat. After all, we want everyone to have a blast and leave with awesome memories, not sunburns and regrets.
Enter our sun safety checklist, a trusty guide to being the superhero of outdoor protection. From cool gear picks to hydration, we've got everything you need to make sure the sun & heat stays our friends, not our frenemies! So, before you hit the trails, fields, or courts, join us on this journey to becoming sun safety champs. Let's go!
If possible for your organization, make sunscreen available as they enter your facilities, such as on the pool deck, or ask participants to bring their own. Since sunscreen gets rubbed off by water and perspiration, and breaks down in the sun, don’t forget to remind everyone of the importance of reapplying every 2 hours!
While being active in the sun and heat, our body naturally uses up our water reserves to help regulate our temperature and keep us cool. Have participants pack a full water bottle (or maybe even two depending on the length of your activity) and remind everyone to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. If you can, provide access to water stations or portable water containers.
With any activity comes gear requirements. Whether specific shoes or jerseys, it’s natural to inform participants of what they should wear to your programming. Consider listing protective clothing in that section of the program description for when they will be hosted outdoors. Require your participants to wear basics like a hat and cover their shoulders to protect the most commonly overexposed areas.
When you can, you should aim to plan the most intense activities either early in the morning or in the evening when the sun is lower in the sky. Take inspiration from the practice of a “siesta” and schedule-in lower-intensity activities, or even take the group indoors during the hottest parts of the afternoon.
When programming is outside, make sure it’s in an area where there is access to trees or shelters to take breaks from the sun. If a particular participant starts to feel overwhelmed by the heat, you’ll have the perfect place for them to take refuge, not to mention that storing everyone’s personal belongings in a shady spot is ideal for keeping water & snacks cool and electronics from overheating.
Help your participants understand the importance of sun safety by mentioning the potential long-term effects of sun damage. Whether we expect it or not, there isn’t always the same understanding of sun & heat risks across all members of the public. Whether they are young or old, it’s helpful to explain the “why” behind all these guidelines to help get everyone on board.
Depending on the activity, sunglasses or sport-safe sunglasses that block UVA and UVB are a crucial way to prevent eye-damage. Prolonged exposure can result in cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye problems. So, when you are purchasing or recommending eyewear to your participants, make sure they meet the minimum protective requirements and aren’t just for style.
As the person responsible for the activity or program, stay alert to potential risks and keep an eye out for symptoms of overexposure. Always have a plan in place if someone is exhibiting the signs. You might notice excessive sweating, swaying or confusion as the first signs of heat exhaustion. As the persons’ condition worsens their skin will dry up, they feel nauseous or pass out. At that point, it’s time to call an ambulance.
Go the extra mile by grabbing sunshades or canopy tents to bring on site to provide even more opportunities for a sun break. These are crucial for all day events like soccer tournaments, swimming competitions or even special events like a festival! If the opportunity arises and the budget allows, consider pushing for permanent structures to be built wherever activities are commonly held and there isn’t natural shade.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fun. Set yourself key times to remind your participants of all the above strategies covered! If applicable, you can even make it part of your staff’s routine, have them mention it as part of scheduling announcements over a loudspeaker or make it part of a playful activity with kids.
Get out there and enjoy the sun (safely)!
As dedicated leaders & supervisors who prioritize the significance of sun safety with an empowered team thanks to the sun safety checklist, you’ll be sure to continue to run remarkable outdoor activities & programming while safeguarding the health and well-being of all participants. By incorporating careful preparation and prudence, we can continue to enjoy all that summer has to offer, without compromising on safety.