While working in a salon is a fun, glamorous and exciting place to work, there are hazards involved in working in the hairdressing industry that employees need to be aware of. These include chronic exposure to damaging chemicals, working with potentially dangerous equipment, fatigue and hazards present in the shop environment. Making stylists aware of these risks is the first step in managing them.
Stylists use products, such as hair dyes, hair smoothing lotions, hair sprays and perm solutions much more frequently than do home users, who are using them occasionally on just their own hair. Exposure to these substances over the long term can cause skin irritation, dermatitis, headaches or respiratory problems in some people. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration website recently announced that some hair smoothing products, for example, contain unsafe levels of formaldehyde and methylene glycol, which might cause eye irritation, eye damage, blindness, nose irritation, skin sensitivity and difficulty breathing.
Hair dressing equipment, such as hair dryers, scissors, razors and curling irons, pose potential workplace hazards, especially if used in a crowded space or a careless manner. Misuse can result in burns, cuts, electrocution or falls. Risks increase if the operator is inexperienced, the equipment is used in a manner not recommended by the manufacturer, the equipment is old or damaged, electrical circuits are overloaded, electrical leads aren't tucked away from major traffic areas, or if electrical appliances are used or stored in close proximity to water.
Some beauty salon environments contribute to workplace hazards. Physical hazards include failing to mop up spills immediately, leaving floors slippery, employees wearing unsafe footwear, absence of floor mats, and slippery sidewalks. Even when the physical environment is safe, hair salons pose the same risks to employees as all customer-related businesses, including the risk of contracting colds or other germs from constant contract with a variety of people, risk of robbery, and the threat of violence or harassment.
Hairdressing is a physically demanding job, requiring long hours of standing on your feet, repetitive and physically demanding activities like repetitive arm movements and having to hold a fixed-hand position for a long time. These physical strains might result in back, neck and shoulder pain, overuse injuries or varicose veins. Fatigued workers are more likely to be careless, increasing the risk of accidents. Facilities can exacerbate the problem by failing to provide ergonomic equipment and not requiring employees to take regular rest breaks.
Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.