Growing pain: NZ’s 2019 hairdressing injury claims in excess of $200K

Growing pain: NZ’s 2019 hairdressing injury claims in excess of $200K

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Repetitive movement is one cause of injuries being nursed by hairdressers.

Newly released figures reveal a painful side to an industry often associated with cutting edge style.

While a hairdresser’s skills help people look their best, costs connected to injuries suffered by those working on the salon floor are piling up.

Between January 1, 2018 and August 1, 2019, 390 claims have been registered with ACC for hairdressing-related injuries.  The majority of the claims were lodged in Auckland (132) followed by Wellington (45).

As of August 1, injury costs for the 2019 year to date total $202,631.

Debra Hawkins, of the New Zealand Hair and Beauty Industry Training Organisation, says there was ongoing awareness about health and safety among hairdressers.

To access the data, ACC used search terms like “hair cut”, “hairdresser” or “hair salon” to find the information.

Although there was considerable variability in the detail provided by claimants, which made the data approximate,  it shows the top problem hairdressers are likely to face related to soft tissue injuries, notching up 187 of the total 390 claims.

Infected or non-infected cuts, puncture wounds and stings are the next most common injury on 101 claims. The top three injury sites on hairdressers’ bodies were; the neck; back or spine; and finger or thumb respectively.

Worksafe New Zealand’s website also lists some of the risks associated with a career dealing with hair.

It included suffering cuts or nicks which get infected, dealing with chemicals and burns from straightening irons or hair dryers. It also highlighted how work posture and standing for long period of time can cause fatigue, back, neck or shoulder pain and varicose veins.

​Osteopath Mick McBeth, of New Plymouth’s Body Logic, said hairdressers were among those he counted as regular clientele.

He says they vary both in age and also years spent on the job.

Problems with the rotator cuff, which is the group of muscles and tendons which stabilise the shoulder, was the most common issue he saw with hairdressers, followed by wrist and upper limb ailments.

McBeth says the repetitive nature of the movement is one of the contributing factors for the injures he treated, as well as the type of technique used.

Working with chemicals poses another on-the-job risk to hairdressers.

He encourages hairdressers, and anyone else working in an industry heavily reliant on repetitive action, to use a variety of movements in their daily work.

McBeth says most of the hairdressers he treats are very self-aware and know what they need to do to look after themselves.

Debra Hawkins, general manager of learning and development and stakeholder engagement for the New Zealand Hair and Beauty Industry Training Organisation, says she knows a lot of hairdressers that have been working in the industry for a number of years that have not presented with any physical complaints.

However she was aware with the repetitious nature of the job, some may suffer physical conditions which are related to their job.

“It’s obviously not rampant in the industry.”

She said there was an ongoing awareness for those both training and working in the hairdressing industry regarding the need to keep themselves safe at work and trainees were advised of the correct tools and information to do this in order to ensure they had longevity in their jobs.

Hawkins says the Health (Hairdressers) Regulations were also embedded in  trainees’ learning and assessment to carry out on the shop floor.

New Plymouth osteopath Mick McBeth counts hairdressers among the regular clients he sees each week. PHOTO: ANDY JACKSON/STUFF

The regulations, introduced in 1980, include minimum standards for salons and also provide guidelines regarding the personal hygiene of hairdressers.

Hawkins says the benefits of a good diet and exercise are also taught as a means to teach healthy habits to help people  cope with what is a physically demanding job, where they can be on their feet for up to 10 hours a day.

A hairdresser who has been “standing on her feet” on the job for forty years is Wellington-based Maureen Bowring.

She has been cutting hair since 1978 and is the current chair of the New Zealand Association of Registered Hairdressers.

The association has recently developed a health and safety booklet its more than 300-strong membership can access.

Bowring believes blow-drying is the main culprit in terms of causing shoulder strain in hairdressers.

The rising use of the humble hair dryer in salons has put additional wear and tear on the bodies of hairdressers.

“That’s a biggie.”

There had been a shift in hair trends over the years, with clients moving away from choosing to sit under a stationary dryer to requests for a blow-dry.

As some clients have very long, thick hair, Bowring says a blow-dry can take some time and if hairdressers are not standing the right way, it puts additional stress on the body.

Wearing suitable footwear is also key, so Bowring advocates for hairdressers to leave the high heels at home.

“While it looks good, it’s not practical.”

Bowring says she has never had any work-related injuries but as an employer (she has four full-timers and one part-time worker), she knows the value of keeping her staff healthy and pays for a monthly massage of their neck, shoulders and back.

“I value them and I need to look after them.”

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