Hairdressing industry not cutting it for workplace health and safety
10 September 2007
A new report into health and safety management practices in the hairdressing industry shows an awareness of health risks but says more needs to be done to protect workers from injury, says the Department of Labour.
The Department has released an evaluation of the present state of health and safety management practices used to reduce injury and disease in the hairdressing industry. The report is based on information gathered from people working in the industry, and included visits to hairdressing salons and training schools to talk with and observe hairdressers, apprentices and trainees performing hairdressing tasks. Dermatologists, occupational physicians, physiotherapists and ergonomists were also consulted.
The Department of Labour’s Chief Adviser on Occupational Health Dr Geraint Emrys says hairdressing poses significant risks of musculoskeletal disorders and dermatitis for hairdressers. There are around 2600 hairdressing salons in New Zealand and according to the last Census nearly 10,000 hairdressers. Over 90 percent of hairdressers are women.
“Musculoskeletal discomfort, pain or injury among hairdressers is quite common and is leading to decreased job performance, lower productivity, increased time off work, and even early retirement from the hairdressing profession,” he says.
“While the causes of harm to workers in the industry are largely known, the industry seems less aware of the ways they can prevent workers from being injured. Ways to prevent harm exist and hairdressers can protect themselves. Hairdressers, tutors and salons need the courage to take on change in work techniques and work practices.”
Dr Emrys says the challenge for the hairdressing industry is to develop and implement a strategic plan to achieve a major improvement in caring for those working in the industry. The Department of Labour has been working with the New Zealand Association of Registered Hairdressers (NZARH) and is pleased with their positive response to the evaluation report.
“The hairdressing industry has a phenomenal reputation for caring for its clients. We’re working with the industry to develop a similar ethos towards their members – those working every day in hairdressing salons,” says Dr Emrys.
The report is available at:
To the journalist: Please note that Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) should now be referred to as the Department of Labour.
Key findings from the Health and Safety in Hairdressing Evaluation:
Repetitive movements – the need for pauses and breaks:
- Hairdressing includes tasks with repetitive movements. The movements are not forceful but the rate of movement can be very rapid and may exceed a hundred a minute.
- The body - particularly the muscles, tendons and joints - requires time to recover from rapid movement. Hairdressers need to recognise the need to manage their rate of work and to take micro pauses and breaks.
- Undesirable posture and movements contribute to the risk of discomfort, pain and musculoskeletal disorders. There are desirable techniques for all the following activities that minimise the risks of harm:
- Washing at basins
- Blow waving
- The initial techniques taught to trainees are likely to affect their risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders and dermatitis and thus putting at risk achieving their wish to be a hairdresser as their chosen career.
- Techniques are difficult to change and need to be ‘good practice’ techniques from day one of their training.
- There is a need to provide continuing training and training materials for established hairdressers especially those with pain and those responsible for teaching trainees.
- The products and product suppliers are an integral and important part of the Industry. The possible harm from chemicals is generally recognised within the Industry but unfortunately there is a view that the “harm occurs to other people and not me”.
- Product suppliers could take a greater role in coaching and encouraging on a continuing basis, the safe use of products.
- Scissors are a significant factor in the development of discomfort, pain and musculoskeletal disorders. Alternate designs of scissors have been developed to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with scissor use.
- The report recommends a trainee only buy or be supplied with ‘offset’ scissors.
The need for a strategic plan:
- Too many hairdressers are living with pain as a daily part of their lives as a hairdresser. Hairdressers are leaving the industry because of their health and having to find another way to earn a living.
- To improve the safety and health of the hairdressers and trainees in the Industry will require commitment and an Industry plan.