Elf and Safety. What a load of killjoys! We all like to live dangerously, don’t we? But let’s ’fess up, nobody wants to get ill or suffer unnecessarily if there are simple precautions to avoid it. Take barber shops, for instance, if they forgot about Elf and Safety you could end up with something a lot worse than a bad haircut.
A friend’s partner ‘lets’ him visit the kebab van at the bottom of their road once a month. ‘Only because it’s got a 5 hygiene rating,’ she told him. But would she exercise the same control over which barber he frequents? Maybe, on style grounds, but probably not for Elf and Safety reasons.
And yet, a sloppily run barber shop poses a whole posse of risks. At the extreme, these might include hepatitis, aids and other blood-borne diseases. More common risks would be skin infections and lice.
Thankfully, the majority of barbers will be aware of this and take every precaution to avoid any such problems. Plus, there are some laws – including Health and Safety regulations for the workplace which provide some protection. In some parts of the country local authorities require barbers to register so that checks can be made on health and safety standards.
Yet it is still possible for anyone to set up as a hairdresser without a licence. And there will always be those barbers who cut corners for reasons of cost, ignorance or even laziness.
No Barbicide to be seen
I was reminded of this when I visited a barber recently for a quick emergency trim. A barber I’d never used before. Two things struck me. I didn’t see any evidence of Barbicide sterilising solution being used on the combs or equipment, nor did I actually see a new blade being put into the cut-throat razor which the barber used to scrape the back of my neck. He may well have replaced it before I came in. Or not. There was no Barbicide in sight and he didn’t need to dry the comb before using it.
The prestigious Great British Barbering Academy which offers courses in barbering to improve and hone the skills needed in the industry are very clear on these issues. In their advice to barbers, they stress that: ‘It is so important to always use one blade per client regardless of how much or how little you use the blade. Always discard the finished blade after use. This is not only for your client’s health and hygiene but also required by law. If you find the blades you use are expensive, you can change to a normal open razor that takes everyday blades.’
Hopefully, my barber had done this. But, for my peace of mind, I wish he’d also heeded their next piece of advice: ‘Put your new blade on in front of your client so they too can be confident and assured that you are following good health and safety.’
Rubber glove job
Every wondered why barbers wear gloves when they shave you? The Academy advises: ‘Before even thinking about reaching for the razor, you’ll need to put on your gloves – it’s important to put the health and safety of your customers first and to show them that they are in capable hands.
‘It is paramount for barbers to take every precaution to protect ourselves and our clients from any blood-borne diseases or infections and wearing gloves dramatically reduces the risk of cross-infection.’
Fortunately, it’s in the barber’s own interest to observe health and safety precautions, though it does rely on awareness of the problems. Barbers are urged to wear latex-free gloves for many procedures – not least to protect themselves from dermatitis.
The Academy alerts its members to the fact that ‘according to statistics from the HSE, our trade is in one of the occupation categories with the highest reported incidences of skin disease in the UK’.
Dermatitis is a skin inflammation caused by exposure to allergens or irritants that cause the skin to become red, blistered, dry, scaly and cracked. In serious cases, sufferers may have to leave the barbering trade.
There are a few things you can do to stay safe. Look around when you’re in the shop. Does it look well run? Are the combs and accessories soaking in cleaners? Make sure that if they use a cut-throat, that it has been sterilised – unless it’s of a similar type to the Men Rock Shavette Straight Razor and has disposable blades.
If you have any doubts, best change your barber. Or if you’re a wet shave fan, try giving yourself a shave at home. You can get everything you need here.