The unregulated industry - would you know what to do if you were harmed through hair treatment?
The UK hairdressing industry employs nearly a quarter of a million people across 55,000 businesses and, as with any industry of that size, standards and safety procedures often widely vary. However the UK hairdressing industry is also totally unregulated, meaning that almost anyone can set up a business as a hairdresser without any formal qualifications or recognised training.
The influence of fashion coupled with a desire by many to look younger, has led to a steady increase in spending on cosmetic services such as hair and beauty, even in times of recession. Most of us enjoy a visit to the hairdresser and usually the salon and individual we go to is a skilled professional who we've used for years and came highly recommended.
Yet with the sheer number of hairdressers, procedures and techniques out there the potential for something to go wrong is never far away.
What's the worst that can happen?
When I talk about things going wrong, I don't mean just badly cut hair or a poor style choice. I'm referring to an act of negligence where someone's action has left a person seriously injured through no fault of their own.
These injuries can range from minor lacerations or dermatitis to serious scalp burns and complete hair loss.
Issues with appearance can also lead to psychological injuries, which as you imagine is more common in women than men, but no less traumatic for the sufferer.
Hairdressers (not to mention barbers) rarely just use a comb, brush and pair of scissors. They have a variety of tools, chemicals and styling equipment at their disposal. So injuries through the incorrect use of bleach, waving equipment or tinting chemicals are likely to cause more suffering than a simple cut.
Current standards and the campaigners for regulation
To try and help combat and reduce salon injuries there have been recent calls by Welsh MP Nia Griffiths for a compulsory register to be put in place which would amongst other things protect people from 'unscrupulous' and 'incompetent' traders. However the Work and Pensions Minister, Mark Harper, said the move could not guarantee the quality of hairdressers - and that those who were poor at their job would go out of business very quickly. It was also argued that the creation of a register would cost the industry £75 million.
Currently it is voluntary to belong to a UK register of qualified hairdressers. The Hairdressing Council is one such organisation which holds a register and was established through the Hairdressing Regulations Act 1964. The hairdressing Council believes in the professionalism and passion of hairdressing. It campaigns to raise standards, and believes every hairdresser should be registered, a move which would 'eliminate the cowboys who practice hairdressing with no qualification or experience whatsoever'.
Habia (the Hair and Beauty Industry Authority) is also an organisation licensed by the UK government to create the standards that form the basis of all qualifications in the hair industry which include:
- • NVQs and SVQs
- • Apprenticeships
- • Foundation Degrees
- • Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification (WBQ)
- • Principal Learning (previously part of the Diploma in Hair and Beauty Studies)
As well as setting qualification standards Habia have lobbied the government for compulsory state registration stating:
"Britain is internationally renowned for their high standards in hairdressing and has some of the best training in the world but we must protect the UK public from unscrupulous hairdressers opening businesses on the high street."
Finally there are independent review sites such as Good Salon Guide and SalonSpy which aim to share recommendations and ratings of a hairdresser from previous customers.
Top tips to finding, being happy and staying safe with your hairdresser or salon
• Gain a recommendation - Ask family and friends who they've used or heard good things about
• Search the Hairdressing Council to see if your hairdresser has voluntarily registered (or find one that has)
• Confirm their reputation - Check out reviews on the Internet to see if other customers are happy with the service they have received
• Ask about qualifications - Is it obvious how their staff are qualified and trained, do they have a Public Liability Insurance Certificate on display?
• Get a consultation - most hairdressers offer a free consultation and you can ask what products and techniques he/she intends to use, giving you an idea of their experience
• Advise them of any allergies or conditions - Have you ever encountered problems with certain cosmetic products or brands, do you have any known allergies (latex etc.)
If after all these precautions, you do suffer an injury it is important to seek medical attention straightaway. The salon should ideally be informed as well, especially if the procedure involved chemicals or dyes, as knowing the specific chemical ingredients used may help aid treatment and recovery.
It is also recommended to seek advice from a specialist legal professional, as the distress, pain, long term treatment and effects of a hairdressing injury should not be underestimated.
Protecting consumers and the hairdressing industry
Even though there are organisations that provide training, assessments, and voluntary registration, it remains that an industry which performs a multitude of physical and chemical procedures is still for the most part self-regulated.
The scenario that anyone could choose to call themselves a hairdresser, without any checks or qualifications, is mindboggling and scary to me. Regulation in some form needs to be mandatory to stop people being injured in this way, as well as protecting the reputation of the majority of qualified hair and beauty professionals.
Do you think all hairdressers should be regulated to comply with a set standard? Or is the current self-regulated system working just fine?
About the author
Lynne Urpeth is a litigator at Spencers Solicitors and has nearly 10 years experience in dealing with personal injury claims. Lynne currently handles a mixed liability caseload dealing with accidents at work, occupier's liability, public liability and criminal injuries compensation claims.