West Lothian nail bars may soon need operating licence

Tuesday June 13th 2023

Nail bar

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Sommerville

The booming nail bar business in West Lothian may soon be licensed to tackle concerns over safety standards and modern slavery.

The council has existing powers which could also be used to ensure safety for both customers and staff, Bathgate’ SNP councillor Pauline Stafford said.

Councillor Stafford raised a motion to a meeting of the full council calling for regulation of the business.

Nail bars have opened up in towns and villages across West Lothian in the last few years offering manicure services and other treatments as well as acrylic nail extensions.

While treatments are relatively cheap there are dangerous chemicals which can be used. Across the UK, there have also been concerns about modern slavery and people trafficking. Many young women from South East Asia work in the sector.

Councillor Stafford told the meeting: “While for many this is a relatively low cost procedure which they purchase frequently there are a number of issues associated including health and safety risks and the potential for some of these businesses to attract human trafficking and exploitation.”

The council has the right to licence nail bars and neighbouring authorities such as East Lothian already require nail bar businesses to have a public entertainment licence to operate.

Councillor Stafford highlighted major issues from the rapid expansion of the business. These include the use of untrained technicians and the use of a polymerising agent called methyl methacrylate, or MMA, which has been banned in the US, and other countries.

It is cheaper than safer agents and is relied upon by many businesses because it costs less and forms nail extensions faster than others, enabling quicker customer turnover. Some of the risks of using MMA can include respiratory problems, allergic reactions and damage to the nail bed.

Councillor Stafford said that licensing should be used to enable the growth of businesses but the council also had a “duty to protect the health and well-being of staff, clients and members of the public in relation to these businesses.”

The councillor called for a report to come back to the relevant Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel to explore the possibility of licensing. It was agreed without issue.

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