Hairdressing – Managing Health & Safety

People working in the hair and beauty industry are exposed to many hazards and risks on a daily basis.

What are the risks?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), every business has a responsibility to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers, and that others are not put at risk by the work of the business (for example, customers, visitors, children and young people, or the general public).

First, you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

The following are examples of only some of the health and safety risks for people in the hospitality sector. We also provide general guidance on how to manage your work health and safety risks.


Cuts


Scissors and razors can cause injuries. These need to be used with care to prevent cut and puncture injuries.

How are workers and others harmed?

  • Stylists and clients can be accidently cut or nicked.
  • For stylists, cuts can become infected or exacerbated by the use of chemicals and constant immersion of hands in water.
  • For clients, there is a risk of cuts becoming infected or contaminated if proper sterilising practices are not in place as contaminated equipment can carry blood-borne infections such as tetanus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Here are some examples:

  • Keep all sharp utensils such as scissors, razors or clippers in good condition.
  • Store all sharp utensils in protective coverings when not being used.
  • Ensure lighting levels are sufficient enough to allow workers to clearly see what they are doing.
  • Develop procedures to ensure that any cuts or burns are treated and covered so that the work doesn’t exacerbate them.
  • Ensure procedures are in place to sterilise equipment after each use.
  • Ensure stylists are trained in how to use their equipment properly.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.


Chemicals


Hair dyes and other products need to be used and stored correctly to manage the risk of chemical exposure.

How are workers and others harmed?

People can be harmed by chemicals and other hazardous substances in a number of ways, including:

  • contact with skin when mixing, applying or cleaning up
  • inhaling while mixing, applying or cleaning up
  • contact with a client’s skin when being applied to their hair
  • contact with eyes or the skin of workers or clients when being washed off at the basin.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Here are some examples:

  • Buy products containing the least harmful chemicals available to you.
  • Purchase chemicals in ready-to-use packages, rather than decanting them from larger packages into smaller ones.
  • Mix and apply chemicals in a well-ventilated room. If you’re unsure whether a room is sufficiently ventilated, seek advice.
  • Patch test according to the manufacturer’s instructions before using any new products on a client.
  • Cover clients’ exposed skin (necks and arms) with towels and gowns to prevent chemicals touching their skin while you are applying it.
  • Store chemicals in line with the requirements of the safety data sheet (SDS) (for example, don’t put flammables near heat sources).
  • Develop emergency procedures and train your workers in them, so that if someone does get burned or has an allergic reaction to a chemical, your workers know what to do.
  • Ensure you have the correct firefighting equipment and spill kits near your storage area.
  • Have eye baths available in case the chemical goes into a worker or client’s eyes, or use eye protection if the SDS indicates this is appropriate. Provide personal protective equipment and clothing (for example, gloves and aprons) that are appropriate to the type of chemical being used. Check the SDS or label.
  • Some people can become sensitised to the powder in some gloves so you may find un-powdered gloves are better for some workers.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.


Burns


Straightening irons and hair dryers can easily cause thermal burns fingers and wrists, and repeated burn trauma over time can lead to scarring.

How are workers and others harmed?

  • Washing hair with water that is too hot.
  • Using heated tools on hair (straighteners, curling irons, steamers and hairdryers).
  • Being burnt by dyes and related chemicals (if not patch tested first).

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Here are some examples:

  • Use heating irons and straighteners that automatically switch off after a set period of time or have safety features to mitigate the potential for the operator to touch the hot parts.
  • Limit the temperature of hot taps at wash basins. Where this is not practical, implement a method to check the temperature of the water before use. Ask clients if the water temperature is comfortable – err on the cooler side.
  • Store straighteners and curling irons in cages when switched on to avoid accidental contact with the hot parts.
  • Ensure lighting levels are sufficient enough to allow workers to clearly see what they are doing.
  • Develop procedures to ensure that any burns are treated and covered so that work doesn’t exacerbate them.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.


Working Posture


Standing for long periods can make stylists fatigued, cause back, neck and shoulder pain, and even cause varicose veins.

How are workers and others harmed?

Because stylists spend the bulk of their day standing on hard floors, this can place undue stress on feet, knees and the back. Lower body problems can range from achy joints to varicose veins.
While cutting or drying hair, or bending over while washing a client’s hair, stylists can become prone to strains and other injuries related to posture and repetitive movement.

Poor ergonomics can also contribute to people getting harmed, for example, the incorrect height of work surfaces, inadequate equipment spacing or incorrect chair height.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Here are some examples:

  • Provide adjustable furniture and equipment – one size does not fit all when it comes to chairs and work surfaces.
  • Ensure stylists know how to use the equipment they are provided with, including how to adjust it to meet their specific needs.
  • Train stylists in good posture management.
  • Use rubber anti-fatigue mats.
  • Ask stylists to wear suitable footwear.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.


Slips, trips and falls


Slippery floors from hair clippings or liquid spills, and clutter, poor lighting and uneven surfaces can put stylists and customers at risk of slip, trip or fall injuries.

How are workers and others affected?

When someone falls as a result of a slip or trip, the injury can range from minor (bruises and scrapes) to more serious, including broken bones or head trauma. The severity of the injury will depend on the circumstances.

Examples of how injuries can be caused include:

  • slippery floors from wet hair or spilt water or hair products on the floor
  • trailing cables from hairdryers, straighteners or curlers, which get extended across walkways or tangled around the feet of styling chairs
  • moving trolleys or stools
  • products falling from shelves onto the floor
  • uneven or damaged flooring.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Keep the salon tidy – housekeeping is really important in preventing slips, trips and falls.
  • Clean up cut hair, water and any spilled products promptly.
  • Use matting at the shop entrance to prevent clients slipping on wet tiles on a rainy day.
  • Use non-slip matting around wash basins.
  • Design workstations so that cables don’t trail or cross the salon floor.
  • Design flooring to be non-slip.
  • Maintain flooring in a good condition.
  • Organise the salon so that foot stools, equipment, product displays and magazine racks do not obstruct movement.
  • Ensure utensils, liquid or semi-liquid package products are stored in an accessible and stable position to prevent them spilling or falling on to the floor.
  • Regularly maintain equipment with moving parts and trolleys, and ensure breaking mechanisms work to avoid accidents from unintentional movements.
  • Ask workers to wear non-slip comfortable shoes.

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.


Contact dermatitis


The main cause of contact dermatitis in hairdressing is constant exposure to the chemicals in hair products, along with frequent wet work like shampooing.

How are workers and others harmed?

There are two types of dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.

  • Irritant contact dermatitis can be caused by contact with chemicals, frequent wet working and, in some cases, working with mild shampoos.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis can be triggered by an allergic reaction to the chemicals in hairdressing products such as shampoos or colours. This can take months or years to surface, but once a worker becomes allergic, they are allergic for life. This affects not just their work life and home.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Here are some examples:

  • Ensure workers wear disposable non-latex gloves when rinsing, shampooing, colouring, bleaching, etc.
  • Ensure workers dry hands thoroughly with a soft cotton or paper towel.
  • Ensure workers moisturise after washing their hands, as well as at the start and end of each day.
  • Ensure worker change gloves between clients, making sure they don’t contaminate their hands when taking the gloves off.
  • Ensure workers regularly check their skin for early signs of dermatitis. (For example, redress, burning, stinging, or itching skin.)

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.


Lone working


Lone workers – particularly those working late night shifts – may be at increased risk of being challenged or even violent behaviour. They can also be at increased risk of injury where some work tasks are more challenging to do unaccompanied.

How are workers harmed?

Lone workers can be at greater risk of threats, verbal or physical violence. This can affect workers physically and mentally, resulting in increased stress levels, decreased emotional wellbeing, reduced coping strategies and lower work performance.

Lone workers may also be in situations where they need to use machinery, manoeuvre equipment, lift heavy loads or use hazardous substances that may be too difficult or dangerous to be carried out by one person.

Employers need to be aware of any additional health and safety risks that could arise from work being done by workers in lone / unaccompanied situations. Workers should be involved when considering the potential risks and control measures that will be put in place to control them

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Employers should understand the situations where people work alone and consider some of the following questions:

  • Is there a safe way in and out of the workplace, (for example, for a lone person working out of regular business hours where the workplace could be locked up?)
  • What is the risk of violence and/or aggression?
  • Are there any reasons why the individual might be more vulnerable than others and be particularly at risk if they work alone (for example, if they are young, pregnant, have a medical condition, are disabled, or a trainee)?
  • Does the workplace present other specific risks to the lone worker, for example handling equipment, such as portable ladders or trestles, that one person could have difficulty handling?
  • Are chemicals or hazardous substances being used that may pose a particular risk someone working alone?
  • Does the work involve lifting objects too large for one person?
  • If the lone worker’s first language is not English, are suitable arrangements in place to ensure clear communications, especially in an emergency?

Always ask workers for input on identifying health and safety risks, and when choosing solutions. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good choices if they’ve been involved in the conversation. Workers are the eyes and ears of your business. They could suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.