Patch Testing

Don’t Push Patch Testing Aside 

As salons across the UK open for business again, it will be tempting for everyone to get as many clients booked in as possible.

Along with pubs, the hairdressing industry has been the worst hit by the pandemic. Well over 4,500 UK salons closed at the end of last year and an overall industry shrinkage of 30%[1].

Now that the doors are opening again, the waiting lists are indeed long. Many establishments will have been closed for almost four months, so there is some catching up to so.

Caution is still needed, however, as the last thing any salon owner needs is to incur more costs. And as many people will have attempted to colour their hair at home during lockdown, allergy patch tests will be an essential part of the colouring process – even if they will slow things down a little.

Patch testing – carrying out a quick allergy test in advance of the full treatment – for hair colour is a legal requirement under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Failure to patch test has previously led to prosecution and fines. Also, it could also lead to allergic reactions.

As a business, you will have insurance in hand – but did you know that failing to follow these legal skin patch test procedures could invalidate your cover, leaving you exposed to claims from disgruntled clients?

Allergic reactions can vary greatly, but in a very small number of cases can cause scarring or even prove fatal. Many clients – and salons – may think that a historic skin patch test will be sufficient. Suppose someone has applied a home dye kit over the last few months. In that case, however, their hair and skin could react in a completely different way, plus people’s sensitivities can change over time.

It is simply not worth the risk from a financial, ethical or reputational standpoint.


No Win, No Fee

With the ever-present personal industry claim companies looking for a way to earn money, any bad reactions could prove very costly for you – the amount paid out for some injuries can be as much as £7,000[2]. With legal firms operating a no-win, no-fee policy, unhappy customers might feel they have nothing to lose in claiming, if they feel you didn’t follow the manufacturer’s rules, or train your staff to do so. Your insurance would not cover that £7,000 if you didn’t do the patch test.


Can the Client Sign a Disclaimer?
All salons should investigate the client’s history and ask questions when hair colouring is involved – and this will involve the client accepting some responsibility. It should not, however, ask them to sidestep the law and put their lives at risk. A disclaimer will not protect you against a claim; it will not be recognised by your insurance policy if you have failed to follow procedure.

What if the Client Refuses?

Nobody wants to lose a good customer. But if last summer’s reopening is anything to go by (salons took hundreds of calls in a matter of hours and had to open seven days a week to cope with demand), there will be no shortage of custom. And the whole relationship between a hairdresser and their client should be one of trust. Most consumers want to know that their hairdresser is the consummate professional: that level of care is valued.

The hairdressing industry needs to recover. But salons also need to protect their customers and their own futures and to do that means avoiding any risks.

By taking the practical, precautionary route, everybody remains safe – and there is less risk of further losses, to a profession that has lost enough over the last year.






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