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Last updated: 22.12.20

A Hairdresser's Guide to Health and Safety

The various laws and legislations that fall under health and safety guidelines for hairdressers are put in place to ensure that all employees and customers remain safe and healthy during their time in a hair salon. Whether you are the owner of a hairdressing business or work in a shared salon space, it is your responsibility to adhere to appropriate health and safety regulations to avoid accidents, injury or legal issues. 

It is a legal requirement that all bosses who employ five or more other members of staff have to provide a Health and Safety policy. But even if you are working as part of a smaller team, are self-employed or work as a mobile hairdresser, health and safety measures in hairdressing are essential. 

Not all hazards in a hair salon are obvious, which is why it is so important to establish a salon health and safety policy to minimise or entirely remove any risks. 

Hairdressing Health and Safety Legislation 

There are many pieces of legislation that affect health and safety in general workplaces and salons particularly that you will have to comply with as a hairdresser. Here we list some of the most important ones.

The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) 

This is the biggest piece of health and safety legislation applicable to all businesses, which sets out guidelines to maintain the health, safety and welfare of all people. It ensures that risk assessments are undertaken, protective measures and equipment are provided, preventative training is supplied and that any accidents are covered by insurance and recorded. 

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)

One of the most important pieces of hairdressing health and safety legislation is COSHH, which applies to all of the potentially hazardous substances that are used day to day in a hairdressing salon. These regulations make sure that the risks these substances pose are minimised, and that anyone handling the substances has received appropriate health and safety training. 

Personal Protective Equipment 2002 (PPE)

Personal protective equipment is required in a salon environment for those who are using potentially hazardous substances or having these substances used on them. PPE in a salon also includes equipment such as mixing bowls and trolleys which keep hazardous substances organised and prevent spillage.  

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) 

RIDDOR regulations apply to any accidents, injuries and illnesses that occur within or because of a workplace, and state that these must be recorded and reported to a Health and Safety Executive. This protects your salon by creating a record of any hazardous events and can ensure that accidents do not happen again. 

Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations (1981)

As part of general health and safety legislation, these regulations ensure that a trained first aider is always present in a place of work and that a risk assessment has taken place to identify all instances where first aid might be needed. If you are a self-employed hairdresser then you must undertake first aid training to comply with these regulations. 

Hairdressing Salon Risk Assessment 

Before creating a salon health and safety policy, you will need to undertake a risk assessment to identify everything that might pose a risk to staff or customer health and safety, and decide how you are going to minimise this. 

A simple process to follow when carrying out a formal salon risk assessment is:  

  • Identify all hazards present in the salon 
  • Determine who could be harmed by these hazards
  • Establish the level of risk each hazard poses and how this can be prevented
  • Record all the findings of the above steps
  • Keep a copy of the risk assessment on hand to review and update

The potential hazards that might affect hairdressing health and safety will differ between workplaces, but there are four main areas that you can identify and anticipate risks within. 

Facilities 

  • Floor surfaces: These could present a hazard if they are clutteredor wet, or dirty 
  • Fire exits: These must be visible (or signed) and accessible at all times
  • Safety signs: Signs indicating ‘wet floor’ for example are very important in a salon space

Hygiene 

  • Tools: Equipment must be kept sterile and cleaned between each customer to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases
  • PPE: Staff and customers must wear personal protective clothing where appropriate to avoid contact with any harmful substances
  • Personal: Staff should follow guidance for good personal hygiene in a salon to keep the salon space clean and customers safe 

Equipment 

  • Electrical equipment: Wires should be kept tidy and out of the way, equipment is switched off when not in use and stored correctly
  • Broken equipment: All equipment must be checked regularly to ensure any faults are identified 
  • Chemicals: These must be stored, handled and disposed of correctly
  • Manual handling: All equipment must be moved safely to avoid personal injury
  • Improper use: Staff should only use equipment that they have been trained to handle, and only for the correct purpose

Security 

  • Entrances and exits: These must be kept locked when not in use
  • Post: Any unexpected parcels to be handled by the emergency services
  • Customers: A sign-in process should be used to record all individuals in the building
  • Lockers: These must be provided to keep personal items safe

Completing a risk assessment will give you the basis for your salon health and safety policy, and create a document that all staff can use to stay informed of potential risks in the workplace and what they must do to prevent these. 

Hairdressing Health and Safety Policy 

The Health and Safety at Work Act states that all business owners must provide a written health and safety policy for their place of work, as they have a legal duty of care to employees and customers. A health and safety policy outlines your business’s approach to managing health and safety by stating what is being done to ensure a safe environment, along with who, when and how this is being carried out.  

Creating this policy should be easy if you have carried out a risk assessment, but there are several things you should make sure to include that relate to health and safety for hairdressers in particular. 

Dermatitis 

Anyone who works in a hairdressing salon may be at risk from dermatitis, which is a type of skin disease similar to eczema. Contact dermatitis occurs when your skin comes into contact with strong chemicals used in hairdressing such as bleach, but most hairdressers are more likely to suffer from allergic dermatitis which can be caused by frequent contact with water and milder chemicals found in products like shampoo. 

Dermatitis can cause extreme dryness and tightness of the skin which often leads to cracking and bleeding if not looked after. Most hairdressers experience dermatitis on their hands, which can be very uncomfortable and interfere with their work. 

Up to 70% of hairdressers are affected by skin conditions such as dermatitis at some point during their career, but prevention is incredibly easy. A key piece of advice is to always wear non-latex, disposable gloves when using products on a customer's hair, and to change these gloves between every customer. 

Hairdressers should also take care of their skin by drying their hands thoroughly after every wash, monitoring their hands and wrists regularly and checking their skin for signs of dermatitis so it can be treated early. 

Musculoskeletal Issues 

The nature of hairdressing work means that another common health and safety risk is damage to the neck, shoulders and back, which can be caused by the long hours spent standing, bending and moving your arms. Whilst you should always make sure that staff are given frequent breaks and do not overexert themselves, several preventative measures can be taken to minimise musculoskeletal issues in hairdressers. 

All equipment must be positioned so that staff or not having to bend or hunch over to work, which is most easily done by purchasing adjustable seats, stools and trolleys. It is also helpful to rotate your staff member’s tasks to avoid injury caused by repetitive actions, and ensure that everyone has enough space to work comfortably. 

COSHH for Hairdressing 

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations is legislation that is particularly applicable to health and safety in hairdressing because of the number of chemicals used in various products. 

As well as the risk of dermatitis that is outlined above, contact with chemicals used in hairdressing products can also cause health issues such as asthma, skin irritation, allergic reactions and other issues if accidentally ingested. Your risk assessment should have highlighted the various risks posed by working with harmful substances, but it is important to outline how these risks will be minimised in your health and safety policy. 

Ensure that all chemicals are stored and disposed of appropriately and that any equipment is thoroughly disinfected after coming into contact with harmful substances. You should also implement a cleaning policy for the whole salon to make sure that any small spillages don’t cause health problems. 

Particles from products like hairspray and the fumes from certain substances can cause respiratory problems, which can be an issue for all customers and staff but particularly affects those with asthma. The best way to prevent any respiratory irritation in the workplace is to ensure your salon is well ventilated and also choose products that come in a paste form instead of a powder.  

Finally, allergy alert tests must be carried out on customers 48 hours before a hair colouring session, to ensure that they won’t have an adverse reaction to a product. It is also a good idea for staff to have allergy tests as well, so they can take precautions against any substances that they react badly to. 

Legionella 

If your salon has a man-made water system then you and your customers are at a risk of legionella and Legionnaires’ Disease caused by bacteria in the water. Because of the need for frequent hot water, health and safety for hairdressers will often involve assessing the risk of legionella bacteria growth and taking steps to ensure the water supply is not contaminated.  

First Aid 

As previously mentioned, legislation for health and safety in the workplace states that a first aider must be present in places like a hair salon to deal with any accidents or injury. Your health and safety policy should identify an appointed first aider who is adequately trained, and you should ensure that a first aid kit is always kept fully stocked. 

As well as the general equipment provided with a first aid kit, you should also ensure you have the appropriate products to deal with any issues caused by harmful substances, such as an eye washing kit. 

Staff Training 

All of the staff working in a hair salon should be made aware of the risks outlined in the salon risk assessment, and the measures that need to be taken according to the salon health and safety policy. This policy should include information about staff training, to ensure that all employees are kept up-to-date on health and safety advice and receive all necessary training for using hairdressing products and equipment. 

Your appointed first aider should also be in charge of keeping all staff updated on first aid policy, so that everyone knows what to do in the case of an emergency. 

Summary 

Health and safety guidelines for hairdressers can seem complex at first glance, and there is a lot to think about when working safely in a salon and keeping all staff and customers healthy and safe from harm. However, completing a risk assessment and establishing a salon health and safety policy will ensure that everyone can carry out their jobs without risk to themselves and others, along with keeping up-to-date on the latest health and safety guidelines.  

You can view all of our essential health and safety training courses here.

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