Salon Safety: Tips to Keep Workers Healthy and Safe
People visit hair and nail salons to look and feel better, treating themselves to pampering while unaware of the risks all around them. Beauty aside, salons can be dangerous for both customers and workers if salon owners and workers do not employ the right hygiene, sanitation and safety practices. In fact, safety precautions in a beauty salon are just as important as they are in a doctor’s office.
Beauty salon employees face unique on-the-job injury risks ranging from frequent chemical exposure, wet or slippery floors, and routine handling of sharp instruments. To keep employees healthy and safe, business owners need to know and respect salon regulations for health and safety and have workers’ compensation insurance coverage in the event someone gets hurt or sick on the job. Common beauty salon issues:
- Slips, trips and falls – According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the majority of general industry accidents come from slips, trips and falls. In a busy salon, floors can be slippery from spilled hair products, splashed water, dirt and un-swept hair clippings. Employees should be encouraged to wipe up spills immediately and sweep up around workstations after finishing with each client. Anti-skid mats next to shampoo stations can make floors less slippery and employees should be encouraged to wear closed-toe, anti-skid footwear.
- Carpal Tunnel syndrome and repetitive motion injuries– Hair stylists may be at increased risk for ailments including muscle strain and Carpal Tunnel syndrome due to the repetitive nature of their work. Common causes of Carpal Tunnel can include work stress and repeated use of vibrating hand tools. Following proper ergonomics and taking stretch breaks throughout the day can help mitigate risk for stylists.
- Sharp objects, salon sanitation practices – Barbers and stylists work with scissors and razors, potentially putting them and customers at risk for cuts and puncture wounds. Establish clear safety rules for handling these tools, including proper cleaning and disposal procedures. Tools should be properly sanitized after use with each client to avoid spreading diseases and infections. This means thoroughly washing, drying and then immersing tools in a wet sanitizer, or even using an autoclave. Electrical tools should be disinfected with a spray and then wiped down. Any gloves, capes or towels used on the client should be sanitized or discarded. When service is completed, chairs, furniture and working surfaces should be wiped down with disinfectant.
Every state has its own rules about disinfection practices, so owners and employees should consult their state cosmetology board for local regulations.
- Electrical hazards – Hot curling irons and straighteners, tangled cords, and overloaded electrical outlets can put workers at risk for burns or electrocution. Make sure employees turn off all hot tools when they are not in use, and that an appropriate number of devices are plugged into each outlet. Hair dryers, curling irons, and other electric appliances should be replaced immediately when their cords show signs of fraying or other damage.
- Chemical exposure – Certain hair products, such as texturizers, permanent solutions, straighteners and dyes, can contain toxic chemicals that can be harmful after repeated exposure. Encourage workers who use these substances to wear protective masks, gloves, and aprons, and to follow the specific handling instructions on the product packaging.
Formaldehyde is a particular exposure risk in salons due to its presence in a variety of hair products. Among its many health regulations for salons, OSHA has a comprehensive guide to protecting salon workers and clients from formaldehyde exposure.
- Crowded workplace – Beauty salons and barber shops can quickly become congested, especially in smaller shops. Keep aisles and entries cleared of debris and packaging, and make sure all doors are clearly accessible.
- Personal hygiene – Salon workers should not eat or drink at their workstations. Prior to serving a client, after eating and/or after smoking, clients must wash their hands. If they have cuts or sores on their hands, salon workers should wear gloves while serving clients.
While nail salons house similar risks and hazards as beauty salons, they also present some unique nail salon safety issues. OSHA’s complete guide to nail salon safety offers plenty of tips and warnings, but here are some basics:
- Chemical exposure – Acetone, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, methacrylate compounds and toluene are among the common chemicals used in nail polishes, glues and other nail salon products. OSHA notes workers may breathe in the harmful vapors, dusts, or mists; get the product on their skin or in their eyes; or swallow the product if it is accidentally transferred onto food or cigarettes. That chemical exposure also compounds throughout the work day.
Workers should wear gloves and take care to minimize chemical exposure to skin. Like beauty salon workers, OSHA says nail salon workers should wash their hands before and after working on clients; before eating, drinking, applying cosmetics, or smoking; and after handling or transferring products. Proper salon ventilation is also a must, either through an exhaust system, HVAC system, ventilated tables or simply opening up doors and windows. When possible, OSHA recommends using products labelled “acid-free” and “3-free,” meaning they do not contain the “toxic trio” of toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate.
- Sanitation and hygiene – Nail salon workers should wash their hands prior to servicing clients. But they also need to make sure clients have washed their hands. Clean towels and matting should be used with every client. All tools need to be cleaned and disinfected prior to use, except tools that need to be thrown away after single use. Owners can keep a cleaning/sanitation log to ensure they and their workers adhere to proper sanitation regulations, which vary by state.
- Ergonomics – Sitting hunched over at a table and working on clients’ nails for significant amounts of time can lead to aches and pains for nail salon workers. OSHA recommends workers use adjustable chairs and sit with feet flat on the floor with the back supported; raise the client’s hand or foot to avoid bending over; don’t work too fast; and stretch often.
Beauty and nail salons should be places where people relax and enjoy a worry-free beauty experience. Following proper hygiene, sanitation and safety practices will not only make customers happy and be good for business, but it will help keep employees safe and protect salon owners from potential liability issues.
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