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Health & Safety - The Basics

Luke Seall

Health & Safety - The Basics

With no license to trade in the UK, as a barber you are responsible for the health and safety in the barbershop.

A few months back I jumped into a barbershop for a trim up. The cut was good but the hygiene was shocking. That evening I felt myself itching the back of my head as I watched the TV. If I were a normal client I never would have returned. I always say to my staff “a clean shop is a happy shop”.

So lets start with the basics:

All equipment must be sterilised before use! Clipper blades should be sprayed with a disinfectant spray and regularly oiled. Also clippers can become unaligned, especially if you travel with them. You should check that the blades are aligned properly or they will cut clients. If you do take your clippers home, put them in a secure box so the blades can’t move around.

Always change your Barbicide regularly. Barbicide is diluted similar to how you would dilute squash – one part Barbicide to eight parts water and leave your tools in the solution for 10 minutes. When you take your tools out, use a tint brush to clean in the hard to reach areas.

Milton sterilising tablets are a great way of sterilising your shaving brushes. After they have come out of the liquid, put them in a UV steriliser - your hot towel machine should have this.

‘One man one blade’, use this slogan, tell your friends and lets spread the word. No matter how little a blade is used, it is ONE blade PER customer. So even if you use the blade just to go over the client’s neck hair, the blade needs to be changed. I know some of you will use expensive blades, so you may need to switch to run of the mill cheaper blades for necklines to save those pennies.

After use, your blades MUST go in a yellow sharps box which will need to get disposed of properly. I have spoken to wet goods companies who tell me that landfill sites have given them a telling off because blades have been found in their empty containers. You can buy a yellow sharps box from your local wholesalers for under a tenner.

Glove up! When shaving you should be wearing protective gloves. Try using a smaller glove so the fit is nice and tight. If you start shaving wearing gloves it will just become second nature. When completing nationally recognised qualifications, you will not pass a shaving assessment without wearing gloves and you may even find your insurance would become invalid.

Consultation, consultation, consultation! A thorough consultation at the start of the service will allow you to look at the hair and see if the client has any contra indications. Remember once you have started a cut with headline present in the hair you have to finish it.


Using a proper barbers chair (with reclining back) will save you years of discomfort and enable you to carry out beard trims and shaves more effectively. Adjust the height as often as necessary to ensure that you are comfortable.

Your electrical equipment should be visually checked before each use to ensure it is of safe standard. Although it is not law to get them PAT tested, it is good practice to get all your electrical equipment tested annually as some defects can only be found by testing.

Also remember you MUST have valid insurance. If you’re self-employed you should have your own insurance. I use Gary Crowder at Just Hair Insurance.

I could go on and on, but as I have said before with 27 years as a barber and 12 years teaching barbering I would really like to make this column as useful as I can and help my fellow barbers.

If you would like anymore guidance on the rules of health and safety in the barbershop you can get my book in all Salon Services stores around the country. Also, if your salon or barbershop takes on work placements from your local college then the chances are you have had someone in from the college doing health and safety checks on your shop. This is a great way to confirm you are complying with all regulations.