LEGAL moves are in the pipeline to cut the risk of blood-borne viral infections spreading in Wirral.

It will involve the adoption of a special Wirral byelaw giving environmental health officers the power to legally enforce hygiene standards within cosmetic piercing and skin colouring establishments.

The byelaw would follow Department of Health guidelines and would embrace acupuncture, tattooing, semi-permanent skin colouring, cosmetic piercing and electrolysis.

It would replace three sets of existing byelaws and would provide better controls over premises where the practices are carried out.

Kevin Adderley, Wirral council's regeneration and environment director, has warned that failure to adopt the new byelaw would deny environmental health officers hygiene enforcement controls at cosmetic piercing and skin colouring centres.

In a report to the council’s licensing health and safety and general purposes committee he said: "This would significantly increase the risk of blood-borne viral infections spreading within Wirral."

The authority introduced byelaws in 1985 in relation to ear piercing, electrolysis, tattooing and acupuncture and currently operates a registration scheme in respect of operators and premises involved in these activities.

But in recent years there has been increasing concern that activities such as body piercing and semi-permanent skin colouring – exempt from 1982 legislation – would cause risk of transmission of blood-borne virus infections such as hepatitis.

Under amendment to the 1982 Act local authorities are given extra powers.

The new provisions will require businesses to register and to observe byelaws relating to the cleanliness and hygiene of premises, practitioners and equipment to increase health protection and reduce the risk of the infections being transmitted.