Updated: Apr 16, 2020
Is your workforce at risk of experiencing occupational disease? There is substantial evidence that shows there is an ever-growing issue with barbers and hairdressers contracting skin disorders through working with hair products, and also by coming into contact with the proteins from their clients' hair. Skin disorders include allergic contact dermatitis which flares when exposed to a product in which the worker has become sensitised.
What Has Been Done to Create Awareness?
The HSE has recently forwarded a campaign titled "Bad Hand Day". Which, is a great start in encouraging awareness around the hazards encountered in the hairdressing/barbering industry.
Their aim with this campaign is to abolish all myths which often prevent salon professionals from wearing hand protection. Their goal is to cut out dermatitis, a skin disorder commonly experienced by hairdressers and barbers.
Their campaign also provides information on how to control the hazards associated with hairdressing and barbering.
Here we have provided a link to the HSE's resources.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety also provide some information regarding the potential hazards associated with hairdressing and barbering, however, it focuses more on the ergonomic issues as opposed to the risk of contracting chemically induced or allergic contact dermatitis. Click the link below for more information:
How Do Hairdressers and Barbers Contract Skin Disorders?
From an exposure point of view, salon professionals come into contact with many potential hazards. The frequency of coming into contact with such hazards is high due to the nature of the profession.
Repeat exposure to chemical agents such as peroxides, ammonia and oils can cause defatting of the skin. This makes the skin more susceptible to dryness and cracking. Open wounds can also heighten the risk of contracting infections.
Also, allergic skin disorders can be a result of exposing workers to hair and skin proteins, which trigger an allergic reaction.
Dry and cracking skin can often be a symptom of dermatitis.
What is Dermatitis?
The NHS describes dermatitis as "a type of eczema triggered by contact with a particular substance."
The main symptoms arising from dermatitis are:
-Flaking and Scaling
-Cracking and Blistering
There are two types of dermatitis, Allergic Contact and Irritant Contact.
Irritant contact dermatitis can develop following exposures to strong chemicals, such as bleaches.
On the other hand, allergic contact dermatitis can develop over a period of time following repeat exposure to shampoos, natural products, hair and skin particles.
What Can Be Done To Prevent Worker Ill Health as a Result of Exposure to Substances Hazardous to Health?
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), up to 70% of hairdressers and barbers suffer from work-related skin damage at some point during their career.
These statistics show that, as an industry, occupational hygienists need to create more of an awareness around ill-health as a resort of exposing the skin to harmful substances and proteins.
Choosing Suitable Protective Gloves
Protective gloves should be able to withstand contact with chemicals and should be made from a material which has a permeation time, ideally greater than 8 hours. As a minimum, the material should not disintegrate, sag or lose its protection properties at any point during the duration of any given task.
Although gloves offer protection against substances hazardous to health, they do pose their own risk.
Often regular changes in gloves is encouraged to prevent a build-up of sweat and moisture. As such, wet hands inside of the gloves over a significant period of time can cause the skin to wrinkle and become moist. Moist hands are more susceptible to cracking and skin pealing, particularly around the nails.
Moreover, good practices should be encouraged, and training should be carried out to communicate the health effects associated with handling chemicals, along with the risks associated with poor PPE maintenance and replacement.
If you require a detailed COSHH Risk Assessment to be carried out, along with expert advice regarding PPE and the design and implementation of safe working practices, contact Workplace Scientifics today where our expert occupational hygienists will be here to support you and your business moving forward.