Use of Ultraviolet Equipment

What is UV?

The sun gives out a range of different forms of energy. This range is termed the electromagnetic spectrum and includes ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Scientists have classed UV into three bands:

  • UVC
  • UVB
  • UVA

UVC is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not reach the earth's surface.

UVB is partially absorbed by the ozone layer and the atmosphere but some do reach the earth's surface. UVB penetrates the surface of the skin and may have a number of damaging effects.

UVA is relatively unaffected by the ozone layer. It penetrates deeper into the skin than UVB where it can cause lasting damage. UVA was thought to be a safer form of UV radiation than UVB but it is now known that it may act with UVB and lead to the development of skin cancers.

Sunbeds are designed to produce a tan by emitting UVA radiation although some will emit a small amount of UVB.

Exposure Danger

The use of ultraviolet tanning equipment may expose employees and users to ultraviolet radiation at levels which may give rise to adverse health effects either in the short term or the long term.

Short Term Effects?

To skin ultraviolet radiation can cause:

  • Erythema. A reddening of the skin (although this may also be a reaction to a wide range of stimuli) and
  • Inflammation blistering and peeling of the skin

To the eyes ultraviolet radiation can cause:

  • Photokeratitis (inflammation of the cornea) and
  • Photoconjunctivitis (inflammation of the surface of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids)

Long Term Effects?

To skin ultraviolet radiation can cause:

  • Skin ageing (dryness, cracking, loss of elasticity, discoloured patches etc) and
  • induction of skin cancers

To eyes ultraviolet radiation can cause:

  • Induction of lens opacities (cataracts)
  • The long term effects are less well understood although it is generally assumed that the risks are related to a person's accumulated dose.

Acceptable Standards

The following standards are expected to be considered with all types of ultraviolet tanning equipment eg sunlamps, solaria, sunbeds, sun canopies and tanning booths. It cannot be assumed that exposure to any part of the ultraviolet spectrum is wholly safe and without risk to health.

  • The equipment must be used in accordance with manufacturer's instructions. A suitable exposure regime must be devised.
  • Service all equipment in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations and keep a record.
  • It is recommended that all electrical safety of the equipment, including adequate earthing and insulation, be examined periodically.
  • It is strongly recommended that a residual current circuit breaker be provided to the electrical supply serving the equipment.
  • An identifiable and accessible emergency switch must be available and there should be means of summoning assistance.
  • Emergency access and egress from any sunbed or cubicle is essential. If doors are fitted these should slide or open outwards. Locks/latches should be able to be opened from both sides.
  • Suitable mechanical ventilation and temperature controls are necessary.
  • Individual cubicles, screens or curtains must be provided and used to prevent accidental exposure of UV radiation to operators and/or users.
  • Display prominently a warning notice to advise of the potential hazards associated with using the equipment and precautions to be followed.
  • Advise the user of the correct exposure position. UV radiation intensity will vary depending on the distance from the lamps.
  • Fit a good quality fail-safe timer to the equipment.
  • The operator should draw up a schedule of exposures for individual users.
  • To allow an informed decision on the use of ultraviolet tanning equipment the necessary medical information should be provided to the user prior to exposure.
  • Suitable protective eyewear which is designed to protect against UV radiation must be provided and worn by the user.
  • Adequate washing facilities and changing facilities should be provided to allow basic hygiene.
  • Appropriate cleaning materials, as specified by the equipment manufacturer, must be properly labelled and used according to instructions.

Health & Safety

Good standards of health and safety in the workplace do not happen of their own accord.

Health and safety has to be managed as with other parts of a business.

What the Law Says

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require employers to assess the risks to employees and others who may be affected by their undertaking – this includes users. Employers must take into account their employees' capabilities when giving them tasks to do eg previous training, knowledge and experience and ensure that they are provided with adequate health and safety training.

First Aid

In the case of an accident someone should be appointed to take charge and to be able to administer basic first aid. A suitable first aid box must be available containing first aid materials and guidance on treatment on injured people.


Employers have a responsibility to report serious accidents to the local Environmental Health Service. An accident which causes a major injury to any persons at the workplace must be reported by telephone immediately and an accident at work which prevents an employee from carrying out their duties for more than three days must be reported. Contact telephone numbers are given below.

Information contained here has been collated from the Health & Safety Executive's guidance and the British Medical Journal.


Further free advice and information may be obtained from the Environmental Health Offices.

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