Beware of Exposure to Chemicals at the Hair and Beauty Salon


It is estimated by the Health and Safety Executive that approximately 1.3million businesses in Great Britain are engaged in activities that involve the contact and usage of potentially harmful chemical substances in the work place. Whilst a common belief that it is those who work in heavy industry occupation are mainly at risk, it is in fact a common type of work place found on most street corners and town centres who have a greater volume of unknowing risk; beauty and hair salons.

Health and Safety is the responsibility if all persons in the work place, both employers and employees. A greater duty of responsibility lies with managers and employers to make sure that guidelines are actually being provided and then implemented by them and their staff; this is for the benefit of not only themselves but their employees and clients. It is then the obligation of the staff to make sure these guidelines are adhered to. From body creams, to shampoos and hair dyes, near on every treatment within a salon would use a substance of this nature and due to the handling of these products it is essential that the correct handling and training of using these substances are carried out. It is for this reason that legislation is in place to ensure all parties aware that reasonable steps and care should be followed when in contact with harmful substances directly or indirectly.

Hazardous chemical in Hair and Beauty Salons

The overhead of the legislation which gives guidelines to an employer to provide a safe working environment is the Heath and Safety at Work Act 1974. This Act governs that the employer should:

  • Provide and maintain safe systems of work
  • Provide and maintain safe equipment
  • Provide the necessary information, training and supervision
  • Ensure safety in transporting, storing, handling, using and disposing of hazardous substances and equipment

Whilst an employee should:

  • Take reasonable care of themselves and those for whom they are responsible for
  • Co-operate with their employer in matters of health and safety to ensure compliance with laws and regulations
  • Not intentionally misuse equipment provided in the interest of health and safety

Failure to adhere to these guidelines, and the Regulations which have derived from this legislation, could give rise to negligent claims from employees and clients. But employees should also ensure that they reasonably carry out their duties responsibly as well.

The inhalation of these products can cause breathing difficulties. Further, direct contact with potentially harmful chemicals can cause skin irritation or even occupational dermatitis. The Health and Safety Executive state that around 7 out of 10 employees in Salons will suffer from work-related skin disorder. In severe cases it can mean the end of their career. Physical and emotional distress can be effects, along with research stating that those who are in constant contact with dyes could be affected by cancer. In line with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002, the correct information, protection and tools are necessary to detract away from potential negligent situations. Basic precautions are a necessity for example, to keep solutions and substances away from clients and children in a locked and dry environment. Further protective measures are to use disposable gloves and aprons when coming into contact with the substances. To carry out a skin patch test of the people who are applying and also treated by the lotions and dyes for the first time and after set periodically intervals for example every 6 months as the body and what it is frequently change which could result in a persona all of a sudden being susceptible to a reaction. Like electrical appliances checks are adhered to periodically, so should medical health checks for all staff; for example monthly hand checks to assess their skin for dryness, redness or itchiness.

The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2004 provide the definition of a cosmetic as “Any substance or preparation intended to be placed in contact with any part of the external surfaces of the human body”. In line with this, the Regulation gives guidelines that the Cosmetics should all be labelled with their full contents of ingredients in line with EU guidelines. No products should be used which are not correctly described or labelled and if imported from outside the EC, their country of origin should be detailed. There are also restrictions on animal testing of the products and its ingredients. The labelling and description needs to be clear in order to make known the volumes and strengths of the different hydroxide based products. It is important that the employers make their employees aware that when using cosmetic products that they not only carry out the reasonable and foreseeable steps to adhere to the guidelines, but that the correct training and precautions are given. The strength of each product should be checked with the cosmetic products manufacturer before use and the current legal legislation of using the product.

If employers and employees are aware of the health and safety guidelines and take reasonable steps in order to adhere to them, then this would eliminate exposure to a hazardous environment and potential negligence claims.

This article was written by Jenine Abdo, Solicitor in our Work Related Illness Team.

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