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Beauty sector strategy 2012-15

Sector description

Industry activities include:

The Beauty Sector provides a range of treatments and therapeutic services carried out to enhance physical appearance and well-being. These industries are considered a priority due to their potential effects upon public and consumer safety, rather than high or severe rates of worker injury and ill health. The sector strategy will promote the application of health and safety interventions that are consistent, proportionate and targeted on the basis of risk.

The predominance of micro businesses means that it is often a difficult audience to reach, requiring campaigns, guidance and information that are customised to meet their needs.

This is a fragmented sector, with different subsectors often displaying varying levels of representation, training and health and safety competence. However, many subsectors (eg tattooing) are moving towards increased professionalism, with businesses calling for recognised professional qualifications. Other subsectors (particularly hairdressing) have more developed vocational training that is embedded in educational establishments.

Key stakeholders

The Hair and Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA) is a major stakeholder, which has helped to deliver tailored health and safety campaigns.

Many other sector stakeholders are known but the extent of their influence and expertise within the health and safety system is not, eg British Acupuncture Council, British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology (BABTAC), Tattoo and Piercing Industry Union, The Sunbed Association etc.

The ability and willingness of stakeholders to help develop and deliver initiatives and to effectively influence and communicate with SMEs through the supply chain will be a key driver.

Safety and health issues

Risks to workers:

Risks to the public include:


Work-related occupational disease is typically more of a concern for workers than safety. Key risks relate to the development of occupational asthma and dermatitis from contact with sensitising agents in hair dyes and other solvents. It is difficult to estimate the true size of health problems due to the lack of occupational health provision and transient workforce.

The prevalence of dermatitis and asthma can be linked to a lack of employer / employee awareness of the risks and the importance of controlling them effectively. The sector should aim to raise the overall competence level so managers and employees can manage their risks and understand their own role in dealing with them.

The hairdressing industry has responded to and embraced campaigns such as Bad Hand Day and introduced national vocational training that includes health and safety modules delivered by educational establishments. Others within the beauty sector can learn from this and adapt similar approaches to develop competency levels within their industry.

However, even when aware, some hairdressers can be reluctant to implement the key control measures highlighted by the Bad Hand Day campaign (such as gloves). Salon managers and stakeholders should seek to modify behaviours by altering expectations within their industry on the use of effective risk control measures. Industry stakeholders are challenged to ensure that suitable and appropriate guidance is available for small and micro businesses, as well as the self-employed.

The public

A key characteristic of this sector is the high degree of interface with the public, meaning that poor control of work-related risks has as many implications for customer health and safety as for employees. Under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, businesses have a duty to ensure that customers do not face unacceptable risks resulting from their work activity.

Public safety in this sector can be linked as much with professional competence as to specific health and safety knowledge. General objectives to improve sector competence are therefore relevant. However, rapid developments in treatments and technology have left significant gaps in knowledge for regulators, salon staff and the public.

New treatments (such as laser hair removal) are least understood and which can lead to most harm. Raising awareness of product safety issues among both regulators and providers is a priority. The responsibility for this should lie predominantly with the suppliers and manufacturers of the products and treatments.

Legislation and regulation

Enforcement is split between local authorities (LAs) and HSE. Non-surgical treatments (which form the majority of this sector) fall to LAs, while HSE enforces treatments undertaken under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner, eg cosmetic dentistry. Some LAs require businesses to obtain licences to carry out certain treatments, such as acupuncture, tattooing and ear piercing.

HSE and LAs need to work together on their respective responsibilities of enforcement, promoting lessons learnt from investigations and exploring more cross-cutting strategic solutions. HSE and LAs work together via the HSE/LA Enforcement Liaison Committee (HELA), the Local Government Association including its Practitioner Forum on Health and Safety and the LA Regional and County Liaison Groups.

The speed at which new treatments are sometimes developed can result in the HSW Act (section 3) being seen as the only available enforcement mechanism. This can create issues regarding the inappropriate application of work-related health and safety law to what are predominantly public health issues.

Strategic regulatory and sector approach

Proportionate intervention remains necessary where standards fall below what is widely expected as good practice and result in harm. Enforcement action should be taken at the most appropriate level and publicised within the sectors to ensure the lessons are learnt by dutyholders, stakeholders and other regulators.

Future trends

The rapid development of treatments and technology can make it difficult for LA regulators to keep pace with potential health and safety implications and legislative developments. There is a varied level of technical understanding and guidance across new and established treatments, which in turn can lead to varied application of controls. Although HSE enforces product safety through its Product Supply Teams, it is LAs that conduct the majority of inspections. HSE and LA staff must therefore have sufficient knowledge to identify significant breaches and non-compliance to ensure proportionate and effective enforcement.

Aims for 2012–15


To improve the overall competence level of those working in this sector so they are better able to understand and manage the risk to which they and their clients are exposed.

Customising support for SMEs

To adapt and customise approaches to help SMEs in this sector fulfil their health and safety obligations.

Securing justice

To investigate work-related accidents and ill health and ensure that the most appropriate enforcement action is taken.

Healthier, safer workplaces

To work with other bodies and stakeholders to reduce the incidence of work-related accidents and ill-health.


For stakeholders and influencers within the beauty industry to demonstrate strong leadership on improving the competence of those working in the industry.

Wider issues

To identify political and technological developments within the sector and the potential impact these may have on health and safety.

Updated 2021-02-25