London Boroughs’ Occupational Health in Hair and Beauty Workshop


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Judge Dredd

Mar 11, 2007
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Frequently Asked Questions for Proprietors of Hair

and Beauty Establishments

The London Boroughs’ H&S Liaison Group has put together this list of FAQs to help support this workshop and consequently EHPs carrying out inspections as part of the London-wide project on Dermatitis and Respiratory Issues in Hairdressers and Nail Bars.

It has been prepared using information which to the best of our knowledge is correct and up-to-date. As this is a relatively new area for inspectors and researchers, this information is not exhaustive and there are still some areas of uncertainty, which is why HSL, HSE, HABIA and others are continuously carrying out new research and developing good practice guidelines.


Q. What are the essential activities that a Hairdressing or Nail Bar proprietor needs to undertake to comply with current Health and Safety legislation?

As an employer, you have a general duty of care towards both your employees and your clients under the Health & Safety At Work Etc. Act 1974

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires you to assess the risks that the main activities of your business expose employees and customers to and then to implement reasonable control measures to eliminate or reduce those risks.

In addition to the above, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) specifically require you to carry out risk assessments in order to identify the risks associated with work activities which involved the use of chemicals or the presence of airborne substances like dust.

If you have identified through this COSHH risk assessment process andthat your employees are being, or are likely to be, exposed to respiratory or skin sensitisers at work, then you are required to control those risks. This can be by either removing the causative agent completely, substituting it for a safer product or by reducing your employees’ exposure to it.

Q. How do I do a risk assessment?

Further information on how to carry out risk assessments can be found in number of documents, on the HSE website – - and from your local Environmental Health department.

The HSE has also produced a range of “COSHH Essentials” sheets for different industries and work activities which offer guidance to employers to help them comply with COSHH and the Hairdressing & Beauty Suppliers Association produces a list of hairdressing products that includes COSHH information on their controls and exposure (


Q. How common is dermatitis in relation to the nail and beauty industry?

Hairdressing and beauty therapy are among the commonest cause of work related dermatitis

Q. Is it best to use paper towels or material towels for hand drying / using with clients?

Soft, dry, freshly laundered towels would be the preferred method but they should be exchanged for fresh towels once damp. To avoid creating a warm, damp environment for bacteria to multiply on damp towels, the use of soft paper towels is therefore recommended for hand drying.

Q. Is Alco Gel sufficient for maintaining hand cleanliness?

Alcohol hand gel is an alternative to washing with soap solution and water for hand disinfection. However It does not remove particulate dirt and therefore use of soap solution and water whenever possible is recommended. There have been some concerns that products with a high alcohol content may cause damage and dehydration to the skin so if they are used, it is recommended that the user follows the manufacturer’s instructions and uses the gel in conjunction with an emollient cream.

Q. Can we use barrier creams on their own instead of gloves?

Whilst barrier or pre-work creams do have a place in skin care it is better to ensure good practice in relation to regular hand-washing and drying, with the subsequent application of aqueous cream or a suitable emollient afterwards. Barrier creams are not an adequate substitute for protective gloves and do not form an effective level of protection for skin during wet work or work with chemicals and dust.


Q. Is it only EMA & MMA in nail work that can cause this problem?

Other ingredients used in the beauty industry can also cause allergic reactions – e.g. acetone and nail varnish which contains formaldehyde and toluene. It should be noted that EMA and MMA are not classed as respiratory sensitisers in the EU.

Q. Even if my employees or I get a runny nose, eyes or a cough, isn’t that normal from breathing in dust or vapours?

These complaints are very common, but can be an early sign of allergy to the chemicals you are working with. If they occur, it is best to consult your GP and tell you as an employer. These symptoms might also indicate a lack of adequate ventilation or poor working practices which can often easily be remedied.

Q. How can l reduce exposure to dust/vapours/fumes?

At premises where dust and/or fumes are produced the best way to reduce exposure is by air extraction and good ventilation and this should be put in place where possible.

Researchers from the USA’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have found that a ventilation table protects the nail technician best against breathing EMA. The ventilated table is the most important engineering control for getting rid of fumes in the Nail Bars because the vented table places local exhaust ventilation close to the working area. For more information please refer to the NIOSH website- - their website or contact your local authority’s Environmental Health department.

Q. Won’t this cost me a lot of money? What if I can’t fit the extraction in my premises?

Good ventilation should not be expensive to put in place, and is a good start to tackling the problem. There are also other ways of reducing exposure.

Improved working practices can greatly reduce the problem of fumes and dust. For example, in a Nail Bar dust levels can be effectively reduced by using manual filing tools in preference to electronic ones. Also using a coarse filing surface rather than a fine one, whenever possible will produce dust that settles more easily, rather than staying airborne. Cleaning the work station effectively between clients will also prevent dust build-up.

Q. What about face masks; should I use them?

Face masks should only be used where other measures are not reasonably practicable. Some jobs like electronic nail filing can expose workers to high short-term dust levels and face masks may be worn.

However, they are not an effective substitute for good ventilation and air extraction and disposable masks will not provide an effective filter unless they are suitable for that task and a professional face-fit service has been carried out for each member of staff. Chemical spillages may require specific chemical vapour masks to be available for use.


Q. How do I find out if my employees are suffering ill-health from their work activities?

Employees should be encouraged to report all signs of ill-health or discomfort arising from work activities to you so that you can take prompt remedial action.

Because there is risk from exposure to both respiratory and skin sensitisers for employees working in the beauty industry, HSE guidance note MS25 ‘Medical Aspects of Occupational Asthma’ and MS24 ‘Medical Aspects of Occupational Dermatitis provide further guidance on the management of employees’ health at work.

Q. What do I do if an employee reports respiratory or skin symptoms?

Whilst in the first instance, an employee may well visit their GP with respiratory or skin symptoms, they may eventually need to be seen by an specialist occupational health physician to provide advice on their fitness for work and how their condition should be managed.

Q. Where can I obtain occupational health advice?

The HSE website provides an variety of basic advice on health issues in relation to work and their Employment Medical Advisory Service can also assist you.

The Workplace Health Connect scheme – - can provide specialist advice to your business on a range of occupational health issues and even free consultancy to assist you implement any remedial measures.

Q. Do I need a competent occupational health provider to carry out health surveillance?

If in extreme circumstances, your COSHH Assessment has identified the need to carry out health surveillance on your employees, you will need to engage the services of a suitable occupational health provider. For further advice see the HSE’s guidance book, HSG61, “Health Surveillance at Work”, which describes the roles of the responsible person, qualified person and doctor.

The Geek

Grand Master Geek
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Jan 9, 2003
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Moved to News, however I am also tempted to move it into articles :)

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