Why salon health and safety REALLY matters

A female hairdresser cutting a male client's hair

We’ve all had a giggle and poked fun at the daytime TV adverts – the ones that overdramatise workplace slip-ups or compensation-worthy business blunders. But when it comes down to it, salon health and safety compliance is no laughing matter.

In 2018/19, 28.2 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health or injury – staggering, isn’t it? On top of that, work-related injuries and illnesses cost the UK economy £15 billion every year. Business fines for safety breaches have also almost doubled, increasing from £38.8m to £72.6m.

Health and safety must be a priority in your salon to protect your staff and clients, to ensure you operate within the law and to make certain that you remain insured against potentially expensive legal action should something go wrong. But more than this, a robust health and safety policy in a business is a competitive advantage: it builds trust with your clients and it benefits your reputation and brand. Conversely, a poor health and safety record will directly affect your hair salon’s revenue, damage its reputation, or could even lead to the eventual closure of your business…

So, what needs to be done to stop your salon or shared workspace contributing to those stats?

First, you will need to carry out a risk assessment. This involves making a list of anything that could cause injury or harm in your salon. Before you panic, a risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of detailed paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.

The law says every employer must carry out a risk assessment, and if you have more than five employees, it should be written down. However, it’s best practice to have a written record even if you have fewer than five employees so the list can easily be checked and referred to. To make the process easier, the NHBF have put together a health and safety toolkit, which includes 18 risk assessment templates covering the main hazards in beauty salon workplaces.

It’s a good idea to involve your staff in the risk assessment process as they may well raise issues you are unaware of. Plus, creating a strong culture of safety is vital to promote good working practices –  studies have shown injuries to be reduced by 14% due to involving employees within safety discussions and the decision-making process!

Let’s talk training

It’s not the sexiest subject, but health and safety training is vital to help make workplaces safer. Due to diligent healthy and safety laws, the UK actually has a lower rate of fatal accidents at work than most other European countries. The law says as a business owner, you must provide health and safety training for your staff; employees must have training before they are exposed to any risk; and you must record it as having taken place.

‘Little and often’ is a good rule for ongoing health and safety training. This ensures health and safety stay at the forefront of your employees’ minds, and they don’t feel overloaded with info. Consider setting aside 15 minutes at every staff meeting to cover particular issues. Handily, the NHBF health and safety toolkit for employees and the self-employed working in salons can also be used for induction and training.

And don’t forget treatments

As we feel so comfortable in the salon environment, it can be easy to forget the hazards behind (and specialist training needed for) many treatments offered. Caroline Larissey, NHBF director of quality and standards, says a reminder: “All services must be carried out by staff who have the necessary qualifications, training and experience; otherwise, your insurance will not cover you if things go wrong.

“Always follow manufacturers’ instructions,” Caroline adds, “and make sure your client is old enough to have the service and does not have any medical conditions which would put them at risk.”

Plus, you need to think about your products even when they are not in use on a client. “As part of your risk assessment, make sure you know exactly which substances you have in your salon and the risks associated with them,” she continues. “Ensure your staff know how to use and dispose of them safely.
“Always store hazardous substances in their original containers, away from direct sunlight and preferably in a locked cupboard. And make sure you know which substances should not be poured down the sink.”

Make sure you are health and safety savvy.
Download the NHBF health and safety toolkit for salons here

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