Health and safety in the salon

There are many reasons to be excited when taking your first steps to becoming a hairdresser. After you’ve worked hard to achieve your qualifications it’s time to move into a professional environment; whether that be as part of a salon team, hiring a chair in a salon, or going freelance, in a professional workplace health and safety is paramount. To help ensure regulations are followed and adhered to, we’ve created guidelines for the most important health and safety policies for a salon.  

Health and Safety Policy

By law, all employers with five or more employees have a duty to provide a Health and Safety policy. In many salons, it’s common ‘let out’ chairs, meaning that although there could be a number of people operating in a salon, they would all technically be self-employed, simply working on the salon premises. Whether or not hairdressers on the premises are self-employed or working for the salon, the Health and Safety at Work Act maintains that all business owners must provide a written policy statement, as all professionals on the premises, self-employed or otherwise, have a legal duty of safety towards their colleagues and customers. Business owners should brush up on their health and safety, ensuring they have provided risk assessments if they employ 5 or more people. The Health and Safety Executive's Risk Assessment website offers a lot of extra guidance on the issue at hand. The risks within hairdressers may not be immediately obvious. To give an overview, hazards to watch out for include:

  • Electrical and fire safety
  • Aerosols
  • Hazardous chemicals
  • Heavy lifting
  • Trips, falls or slips

Avoiding Accidents

You can help to avoid injuries in the workplace by making yourself aware of the relevant laws and regulations, implementing an effective system of management and making regular risk assessments a part of the workplace routine.

There are a number of efficient and effective methods for reducing accidents in the workplace, visit www.hse.gov.uk/slips/ for further advice.

Addressing Accidents & Issues of Safety

As a salon owner, a self-employed hairdresser or manager you have a responsibility, under Report of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR), to report any of the following incidents:

  • A ‘specified injury’ such as chemical burns to the eyes (see the injury list on the HSE website)
  • An injury which keeps an employee out of work for seven days
  • Occupational diseases such as dermatitis
  • Any accidents involving customers which result in hospital visits

Dermatitis

According to RIDDOR, there are a number of occupational hazards that are specific to hairdressing and must be reported. The most common being dermatitis.

There are two types of the skin disease. The first is irritant contact dermatitis, which can occur from brief contact with strong and abrasive chemicals such as bleach. The second is allergic dermatitis, caused more often, through repeated exposure to milder chemicals and wet work such as regularly washing hair with shampoo.

Allergic dermatitis can develop quickly with little contact, or over a longer period of time, sometimes even years. Shampoos, colours and other hair treatments often provoke allergies that once established remain for life, despite no prior reactions to the substances.

Symptoms of dermatitis include:

  • Blistered or cracked skin because of severe dryness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Intense itching
  • Stiff or tightened skin
  • Scaling or flaking
  • Sun sensitivity

With up to 70% of hairdressers reporting skin damage due to work conditions at some point during their career, easily avoidable skin diseases are estimated to cost 5 billion euros a year in the EU alone.

Prevention and Avoidance

Issues regarding Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) must always be included in risk assessments.

This should not be a concern if the manufacturer's instructions are followed when using equipment. You should also follow advice given in booklets like A Guide to Health and Safety in the Salon.

Protective clothing should be provided for staff and customers, including gloves, overalls and goggles. Using such equipment prevents contact with chemicals and so avoids occupational diseases like dermatitis.

Always store chemicals correctly, either exclusively in staff areas or in locked cupboards. All spillages must be addressed and cleared straightaway.

Lower Back, Shoulder and Neck Problems

Considering that hairdressers often have to hold awkward positions, keeping arms elevated whilst cutting or styling, gripping utensils, and repeating the same movements, lower back, shoulder and neck troubles are common.

These problems are generally referred to as musculoskeletal issues and effect nerves, ligaments, muscles and other soft tissues. Varicose veins poor circulation and swelling are other side effects of prolonged standing.

Prevention & Avoidance

A well-organised work environment is a cost effective, easy and essential method to avoiding musculoskeletal issues in the salon. The following are some easily implemented precautions:

  • Equipment should be positioned to avoid as much bending and reaching as possible
  • The salon should be organised to give all workers plenty of space
  • Trolleys should be a comfortable height
  • Hairdressers’ chairs should be adjustable
  • Regular breaks
  • Rotation and changing of tasks

First Aid

In any given work environment there should always be an appointed person and a first aid kit appropriately stocked. he appointed person does not necessarily have to be first aid trained but has specific first aid responsibilities. They have to make everybody aware of first aid procedures on the premises by instructions and regular notices. According to fitforwork.org first aid kit should always have the following:

  • A leaflet about general first aid
  • Medium and large sterile, adhesive dressings
  • Assorted plasters (relevant for the work area)
  • Triangular bandages
  • Assorted safety pins
  • Sterile eye pads
  • Disposable gloves
  • Eye washing facilities

Hairdressers are advised to carry more than the minimum in their first aid kits because of the various chemicals around. Eye washing facilities and extra disposable gloves are therefore a must.

Cleaning

To avoid trips and falls in the work place it is a good idea to sweep hair clippings regularly. Keeping the workplace tidy by removing any trip hazards like hairdressing stools is also a really good idea.

Keeping equipment sterile is essential in order to prevent the transmission of diseases such as HIV, Aids and Hepatitis. All equipment must be treated after every customer.

You can disinfect your scissors and razors easily using steam, antibacterial wipes or antibacterial solutions. Another solution is disposable razors.

Leave your equipment to soak in antibacterial solution overnight as a final precaution.

Ventilation

One easy and cost effective method of ensuring salon safety is to keep the premises well aerated. Good ventilation is easily achievable by opening a window or installing an extractor fan and will combat condensation, fumes and mildew

Bathroom Facilities

Salon facilities must always include a toilet that both customer and employee can use, unisex is fine so long as there is a secure, functioning lock

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