UK SUNBED owners could find themselves facing sunbed burn claims for damages following a landmark case in Australia.
Jay Allen, 35, regularly used sunbeds over a four-year period at two Fitness First centres. He was later diagnosed with skin cancer, stage-three melanoma, and took action against the international fitness chain.
He was awarded an undisclosed settlement and has vowed to continue his fight for a national ban on sunbeds in Australia.
Closer to home, the spotlight is once again shining on sunbeds after the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded they were ‘definitely carcinogenic to humans’.
Richard Biggs, associate at law firm Ralli, believes sunbed operators need to take heed of the latest headlines and ensure they are aware of their obligations to customers.
He said: “Sunbed owners could face action under the Occupiers Liability Act, which stipulates an owner must take care to see that visitors are ‘reasonably safe in using the premises for the purpose of which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there’.
“It is down to a court to judge what is reasonable in individual cases, however, we believe sunbed operators must give users proper warnings about over-usage as well as ensuring levels of UV lights in beds are not excessive and cause sunbed burn.
“Under the Act, an occupier must provide a clear warning about dangers and specific instructions to avoid them. This is a crucial point as a case would rest on a court’s view of how sufficient the terms and type of warning given were.
“The real difficulty with this type of case is establishing the link between sunbeds and the resulting conditions such as sunbed burn. People are exposed to UV rays as a matter of course and a court has to be convinced the cancer is a result of sunbed exposure.”
The Occupiers Liability Act also provides guidance on children, suggesting a ‘higher standard of care’ is expected. With more than 170,000 under-16s in the UK admitting to having used a sunbed, owners must take care to ensure their warnings to the younger generation are clear.
Gillian Nuttall, founder of malignant melanoma charity Factor 50, added: “We need to ensure the message is clear: sunbeds are not safe. Young people need to be urged to avoid them at all costs.
“Let’s hope the Department of Health revisits this pressing issue and looks at laws to protect young people as well as the laws governing sunbed owners and operators.”