Lack of effective regulation of beauty salons, hairdressers, nail bars, body piercing studios and tattoo parlours in the UK, means that hygiene standards at such establishments vary widely. One of the major concerns this raises is the possible transmission of blood-borne viruses like hepatitis C (and hepatitis B), through dirty, sharp instruments, such as scissors, razors, clippers and needles, which have not been properly sterilised prior to use. Hepatitis C is an infection and disease that can cause serious damage to the liver, preventing it from performing its normal and vital functions.
It is estimated that up to a quarter of a million people carry the hepatitis C virus in the UK, though 80% are unaware of that fact because they do not display any symptoms, which may take many years to develop.
The most common way of contracting hepatitis C is from exposure to infected blood. The virus is highly concentrated in blood, even a tiny particle of which may contain it. If a hairdresser nicks an ear with scissors, a manicurist breaks the skin with nail clippers, or a tattooist punctures the skin with a needle, the small possibility exists that bacteria and highly dangerous viruses, such as hepatitis C, may be unwittingly transmitted, as minute blood particles enter the body through the wound in the skin. In other cases, a person may have a cut or broken skin prior to a treatment, providing another possible entry point and source of infection. Head lice can also pass germs and bacteria from one person to another, yet another reason why hygiene standards at hair and beauty salons are of such paramount importance.
Human blood particles may be invisible to the human eye, and therefore the only way to make sure they are not present on instruments used during hair and beauty treatments is through an efficient system of cleaning and sterilisation. The most effective method of sterilising instruments and equipment is known as autoclaving, or high pressure steam sterilisation. Other methods include soaking sharp, metal implements in chemical germicide, and exposing them to ethylene oxide gas. Whichever method is used, the most important factor is that it achieves its objective, i.e. that any germs, bacteria and viruses present are destroyed. This is clearly not always the case however, as previous US studies have proved categorically that many sterilising solutions used at hair salons are not strong enough to eliminate resilient viruses including hepatitis C.
The risk of both clients and staff catching infections and diseases at hair and beauty salons (as well as piercing and tattoo studios) can be minimised, if proper hygiene principles are observed at all times. Apart from sterilising equipment and keeping the premises clean and sanitary, staff should always wear rubber gloves where necessary, and make sure they wash their hands thoroughly between treatments. Lack of training and lack of government regulation of the hairdressing and beauty services industry in the UK, means that many salons fail to maintain safe hygiene standards. Where either customers or staff contract an infection, or worse, due to this kind of negligence, it will often be possible to claim damages, with compensation payable under the terms of the commercial establishment’s public liability insurance policy, which they are obliged by law to hold.
We have previously dealt with cases in which hair and beauty procedures have caused infections, diseases and illnesses among customers. In the resulting compensation claims we have recovered damages for pain and suffering, as well as medical and travel expenses and loss of earnings for time off work. Contact us today for free confidential legal advice from a specialist female solicitor.