When a haircut becomes deadly


SEVERAL barbershops have mushroomed in the city centre and the surrounding suburbs. It is now a norm to hear people calling, “kan ek jou hare sny” (Do you want a haircut?) in the backyard. 

Next to Ellerines in central Windhoek, in Katutura at Single Quarter, past Independence Avenue at Kings and Queens, and usually people respond positively and the barbers will no doubt make a killing. This trade has become the entry point for would-be entrepreneurs as it requires little capital.

We must give these people a round of applause for their determination and hard work, but the million dollar question is: Are the customers safe considering the manner in which things are being done? 

While it makes it convenient and easy for one to choose, there are questions on the service delivery especially the sanitary aspect of it.There are several risks associated with sharing same gadgets like electric hair clippers. People who run several barbershops are doing little if not nothing to protect their customers from irreparable damage that can result from using hair clippers that are poorly sterilised.

In most cases, the barber is not aware of the dangers associated with such recklessness, but some have decided to fatten their pockets at the expense of the lives of people. 

So long money finds its way into their pockets, blood transmitted diseases, skin diseases and fungal infections are not their concern. If you get into any barbershop, you will hardly find a steriliser, or the one that is displayed stopped functioning a decade ago. One wonders if it is an insult to the customers or maybe the machine is too expensive to maintain.

This is an old trick, despite dull with overuse which is being used to lure customers as their safety will be guaranteed by the mere glimpse of that supposedly “life-saving machine”. Barbershop operators usually take people for granted when they place electric hair clippers in sterilisers with expired bulbs.This “good customer care” is common with several barber shops and it has passed the test of time as barber shops with sterilisers on display will boast of many customers at the end of the day. Even in a situation where the steriliser is working its effectiveness is questionable, is it able to destroy all bacteria and viruses that cause diseases?

People are failing to consider their safety first before a haircut. The need to be smart and be a gentleman is overriding all safety precautions that must be taken for a healthy living.

Having a personal electric hair clipper is the best action against this problem. However, not all people afford to have a personal electric hair clipper and the barber will not buy the idea of using a personal gadget as they say it compromises their skill.

Under this context the barbershops are neglecting their responsibility of avoiding the transmission of diseases that can occur while using electric hair clippers. 

Contaminated electric hair clippers can transfer infections directly to the blood of a customer if that individual has (open) cuts or sores. A hair clipper is a tool that has the potential to accidentally break skin and come in contact with blood.

If you walk into several barbershops today, you will be welcomed by proper sanitary conditions that can make a reasonable person sit and dine in.

But it’s the machines that remain unrepaired and they have the potential to spread skin infection on the scalp, face and neck such as impetigo and fungal infections such as tinea capitis and ringworm.

The problems that can be caused are obviously covered by a façade that is virtually perfect to hide the resultant irreparable damage. 

People are unknowingly taking great risks as they take supposedly serious things for granted. In many people’s minds what is important is a hair-do and contagious diseases that can be spread by the instrument used as unsanitary conditions in the barbershop will remain veiled in obscurity.

Many people consider themselves safe provided they are not accidentally cut by the instrument being used. This belief is so strong in our midst and the problem will remain unchecked until it reaches toxic levels.

The deafening silence of the health authorities on the matter raises more questions than answers. 

Are they not aware of the situation on the ground? Definitely someone can conclude that the authorities are not taking up their responsibilities. These are the people who are tasked with the surveillance role in our society. Until now they have not blown a whistle to caution people on this potential danger.

This serious cause for concern demands all stakeholders to come up with contingent plans that will foster for an environment that protects humanity. Going forward, there is need to put in place stringent monitoring systems for mushrooming barbershops.