Salon Safety Tips You Need to Know

More than 375,000 nail technicians/stylists working in U.S. salons face potential health hazards every day, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Think about it:  sharp objects, scissors, razors, hair pins,  are dispersed around the stylist stations and hair dye chemicals and permanent solutions are being used constantly throughout the day.  Therefore if your staff is not trained properly or if they are negligent with chemical disposal or proper maintenance of their areas – you could be asking for trouble. A salon or spa should be a place for guests to visit, relax and have a couple of hours to get away from it all.  The last thing on their minds should be whether they’ll be safe while visiting your Salon or Spa.  That’s why it needs to be one of the top things on your mind. Not to mention, it is equally important that your employees have a safe, pleasant workplace. So here are some salon safety tips to help keep your clients and employees breathing easy   Beware: formaldehyde Salons and beauty schools need to keep safe levels of formaldehyde in the air at or below acceptable standards in order to protect employees from over-exposure.  If your salon’s air quality fails the formaldehyde standard, you could get hit with some pretty stiff fines. These are important rules to follow.

  • Test the air in the salon and let your staff know of the results.
    • OSHA’s standard: 0.75 parts formaldehyde per million parts of air (ppm) for an 8-hour work shift)
    • Health Canada’s standard: below 50 μg/m3 (40 parts per billion (ppb))
    • Make sure all staff have the proper gloves and protective gear
    • Educate employees on the health effects of formaldehyde, as well as training them on how to properly mix and apply products that contain formaldehyde.
    • Create a written hazard communication program     

Sanitize This seems like a no-brainer.  But when things are busy, it’s easy to “let things go”. But simple things like not sweeping up old hair or not putting used towels in the laundry can create an unsanitary work place.  Here are a few other tips:

  • When giving a manicure, be sure that the technician and the client both wash their hands prior to the service being performed.
  • Any tools that can’t be disinfected should be disposed of or given to a client after one use.  Never use an un-sanitized tool under any circumstances.
  • Never use a blade to cut any skin.
  • Take whatever steps necessary to minimize exposure to odors or other vapors. Cover waste bins and keep products tightly closed.
  • Use only professional grade, legal products.
  • Use clean towels (or manicure mats) for each guest.
  • Sterilize hairbrushes, combs and other re-usable tools.  Some in the beauty industry use medical-grade autoclaves that use heated steam and high pressure to  sterilize 

Practice proper ergonomics When you stand all day, every day, and perform a job that entails repetitive motion like buffing nails and cutting hair…it can take a toll. Ergonomic hazards are real and OSHA even stresses the important of preventing aches and pains caused by joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves that can happen in a salon work environment. Remember the following to keep your employees pain-free.

  • For your nail techs, provide an adjustable chair that provides good back support.
  • Stylists can benefit from a rubber anti-fatigue mat or using saddle chair stools to decrease stress on their legs.
  • When shampooing, hairdressers can spread their feet apart and bend at the knees while keeping their back straight or put one foot forward of the other, shoulder width apart, while bending over the sink. There are also adjustable sinks available on the market so they can set it to a comfortable height.
  • Nobody’s back is designed to maintain static postures for long periods of time.  When cutting hair, stylists can adjust the chair height as to not bend too far, and keep arms close to their sides.
  • Encourage employees to stretch often.
  • Proper scissors can help reduce or eliminate the likelihood of tendonitis. Keep scissors sharpened so that your stylists don’t have to put too much force into cutting hair. This may seem like a small detail, but when you multiply that by the hundreds of haircuts your stylists perform each month you can begin to see the need to keep the scissors sharpened in order to reduce the risk of injury.

Mirrors: handle with care  Obviously salons have many mirrors.  With that, comes safety issues, including the following:

  • Mirrors are large and heavy.  Take whatever measures possible to mount them on the wall properly – so they don’t fall and break.
  • Employees should not hang mirrors on their own. This should only be done by trained professionals.
  • Management should safely lock up any damaged or unsafe mirrors, so staff members can’t access them. There have been incidents when an unauthorized employee took a damaged mirror from a stock room and propped it on her station. While she was with a client, her hairdryer cord got wrapped around the mirror (since it was not mounted properly) and it fell on her.  This is a headache – literally and figuratively — that could’ve been avoided with proper safety practices.
  1. Avoid lawsuits Apart from physical safety, salon owners need to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits. If a client slips and falls or injures themselves in any other way, it’s vital to take a written statement from both the client and witnesses. Offer medical assistance if needed, and always have them sign a document declining medical attention if they refuse it.

The statute of limitations in most states is seven years. That means a client who took a fall in your salon six years ago can still take you to court. They can say they tripped on cords, etc. or even fabricate a story to prove liability. Having a written "incident report,“as well as photographs can quickly squash such a frivolous law suit. How has your salon promoted a healthier environment? What salon safety tips can you share with others?


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