Sunbeds and solaria

Sunbeds and solaria are now commonplace in many hairdressers, gymnasia, health clubs, beauty salons,  in addition to being available for hire for home use. These notes are intended as a guide to the standards which Environmental Health Officers would expect to find on premises where they are used as part of the business.

What obligations do I have?

Duties imposed on employers and self-employed persons by the Health & Safety at Work, etc., Act, 1974 include to take reasonable steps to ensure that any equipment made available to a member of the public is safe and without risks to health and to protect employees from risks to their health or safety.

In the case of sunbed/solaria operators this would involve making sure that the equipment was safe - both electrically and mechanically and was used in such a way that clients were not subject to conditions which may pose a risk of possible eye or skin conditions and that employees were similarly protected from risks due to  exposure to ultraviolet light.


Safety of the equipment itself is important in that the equipment should:-

  • Be properly constructed and suitable for the purpose
  • Be properly insulated, especially any accessible metal parts
  • Have all its moving parts protected
  • Enable lamps to be changed without touching live parts
  • Be designed so that overhead tubes are protected from accidental breakage
  • Not emit high levels of UV radiation and
  • Allow the effective removal of any heat produced

How can I ensure that equipment is safe?

The equipment should be made to British Standard BS3456: Part 202 and should be labelled as such. The Electricity at Work Regulations, 1989 require that all electrical systems (which includes equipment and appliances) are properly maintained so as to prevent danger. A separate Guidance Note is available on this topic. In practical terms you should have a regular system for examining any electrical equipment and for taking any remedial action when problems are found. This should include a frequent, superficial examination of the equipment backed up by a scheduled full inspection by a competent person. This will reveal such things as heat damage to the electrical insulation which cannot be seen without stripping-down the equipment. In addition a regular examination for wear should be carried out of any lifting cables or webbing used on powered canopies.

Steps such as prohibiting drinks whilst persons are actually on the sunbed will eliminate the risks of spillage of liquids onto live electrical parts.

What about medical conditions?

Problem areas associated with the use of sunbeds and solaria are:-

  • Skin burning or irritation
  • Dermatitis
  • Eye irritation 

Skin burning can be prevented by proper planning of the exposure times. Using the information provided by the 

Clients should not be allowed to exceed manufacturers limits whatever their skin type.

Two sunbeds should not be placed next to each other as this can increase exposure

Skin irritation can occur due to such things as the reaction of UV light with skin preparations like deodorants, made-up or perfumes and occasionally due to drug therapy.

Dermatitis can result from both poor hygiene (e.g. inadequate cleaning or sanitising of the sunbed after use). All equipment should be cleaned and sanitised after each client, using a proprietary sanitiser at the correct dilution where appropriate. Take care not to use excessive amounts of liquid when cleaning and always disconnect from the mains.

Eye irritation can occur where proper protection is not used. Eye protection, in the form of proper UV protective goggles or spectacles, should be made available and clients encouraged to use them. The eye protection should be of a type which gives side protection and a selection should be available to take account of personal preference, comfort, physical size, etc.

What about the premises ?

One important consideration to be taken into account is that of ventilation. The operation of a sunbed produces a great amount of heat which needs to be removed from the immediate area preferably by mechanical means. This is important from the point of view of:

  • Preventing overheating of the equipment itself, which could lead to deterioration of electrical insulation and
  • General comfort and hygiene of the client, reducing excessive perspiration and, in itself, reducing the risk of electric shock.

It is recommended that personal showering facilities are provided for clients.

In the case of sunbeds installed in individual cubicles or rooms It is important that:

  • clients can contact the operator and
  • the operator can contact the client in the event of an emergency.

It is possible that some clients may suffer from the effects of heat and claustrophobia when using sunbeds and It is recommended that an alarm (e.g. a bell or buzzer operated from a push button or pull cord adjacent to the sunbed) be installed so that the client may summon assistance if required. 

It is also recommended that cubicle doors be fitted with locks which are capable of being opened by the operator from the outside in the event of an emergency. Where sunbeds are situated in a room remote from the main work area (e.g. on the first floor of a hairdressing salon) a regular check of the clients should be made during their period of use. This can be achieved either by the use of an intercom or by calling to the client from outside the sunbed area.

Do I need to give my Client any Information ?

It is recommended that a warning notice be prominently displayed on the premises advising clients of the possible risks involved in using the equipment.

It is strongly recommended that records are kept of clients name, address, skin type and exposure times together with details of any adverse reactions which may have occurred.

What about Employees?

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations, 1992 require that you carry out an assessment of the personal protective equipment which your employees may require. During the course of their normal employment it is likely that attendants and maintenance staff will be regularly exposed to UV and will need to be provided with suitable eye protection.

Your should also ensure that you and/or your staff:-

  • Understand the health risks of exposure to UV radiation and the information provided by the supplier of your equipment
  • Know how to avoid all unnecessary exposure to UV radiation, the extent to which UV exposure can vary when using different tubes in your equipment, the recommended duration of each tanning session, the period between sessions and the maximum number of sessions per year
  • Give advice to customers on how the equipment works, how they can call for help in the event of an emergency, how long they can use the equipment on each visit and any other safety features

These notes are only intended as a brief guide to Health & Safety matters and do not cover all aspects in detail. 

© Wigan Council