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Risk Management for Hairdressers

Risk management for hairdressers is highly important to the 400,000 hair salons and approximately 355,000 hairdressing companies in Europe. All hairdressers, including the 40% who work part-time, must manage the risks they face on a daily basis. Whether working at home or in a large chain salon, risk management is a high priority. Hairdressers face many occupational health and safety hazards and must do all they can to prevent or reduce the amount of possible harm done.

Risk management process

Most people tend to think risk management only pertains to obvious risks, like preventing equipment malfunctions or falls. Or they think risk management is simply about purchasing insurance to financially protect against accidents and natural disasters that may occur. Risk management certainly does include purchasing insurance and preventing accidents from occurring. However, the risk management process is much more than this. The process should include a systematic examination of all aspects of the work undertaken and the environment in which it’s being conducted. To properly manage their risks, hairdressers should follow this simple process:

Identify all the possible hazards and those at risk from these hazards

This includes everything that may possibly injure or harm a human being, whether it is an employee, family member, or a member of the public.

Evaluate and prioritise risks

This means estimating the severity and likelihood of possible harm caused by each hazard, and then coping with them according to their level of importance.

Create a plan of action for setting preventative measures in place

Once the perils have been evaluated, then identify and evaluate all the possible ways to eliminate, reduce, or control the risks.

Take action

Follow through on the plan of action and actually do whatever is required for eliminating, controlling, and reducing the risks.

Get employees involved

No matter what risk management plan is in existence, it will not be successful unless all employees follow the plan. It’s essential to get all employees involved with the risk assessment and management process, and to have them follow through with proper actions.

Monitor the plan

No matter how good the risk management plan may be, it will need constant monitoring and adapting as changes are made in the workplace. For example, insurance policies may need altering as the risk levels vary from one year to the next. The types of services offered may change, thus increasing or decreasing certain risks. It’s also important to remember that a preventative measure may eliminate or reduce the risk in one area while increasing the risk elsewhere.

Types of risks frequently overlooked

There are some types of risks that are frequently overlooked by hairdressers due to their unseen hazards. The most dangerous perils are caused by unseen chemicals, physical loads, and psycho-social issues. Hairdressers, especially those just starting out in the field, must cope with:

Working with chemicals

Hairdressers may acquire skin and respiratory disorders due to working with toxic chemicals and allergenic or irritating materials. Aerosol particles, fumes, and dust may enter the lungs and bloodstream, causing respiratory ailments and reproductive risks. The prolonged exposure to moisture (wet work) along with emulsifiers, preservatives and scents in dyes, rinses, bleaches and other products can destroy the skin’s natural protective functions. Many of the hair care products used may contain chemicals that have not been adequately tested for safety. They pose extra risk to pregnant women.

Physical load and Ergonomics

The work postures, repetitive actions, and lack of ergonomically designed work places may cause a hairdresser to suffer from muscle fatigue. They may incur serious or chronic musculoskeletal complaints, which can lead to absenteeism from work or force the hairdresser to drop out of the field or medically retire at an early age.

Psychosocial issues

Stress and stress-related problems caused by time pressure, lack of control over work and breaks, and lack of support from colleagues or superiors may cause various mental illnesses. Also, lack of appreciation, conflicts, imbalances between work & private life, and lack of career development opportunities may cause some psychosocial issues. Hairdressers may also have to cope with sexual harassment, aggression, violence, and teasing while at work. These psychological factors can also create physical illnesses.

Checklists

Utilising checklists can help to identify the hazards and possible preventative measures. They can also help keep track of the progress being made towards setting the plan of action into place. Although there are some generic risk management checklists available, each hairdresser and employee should adapt the list according to their specific work and place of employment. If used correctly, checklists can stimulate ideas of what else needs to be done, and not merely confirm that an action has been taken.

There are other methods of risk assessment and management as well. Using a question and answer sheet works well too. The main idea is to use a method that leads to conducting a thorough, systematic examination of the risks and preventative measures. One of the best ways to conduct risk assessments is to seek the expert advice of a risk management company. Insurance companies and special insurance agents may also be able to give expert advice on risk management for hairdressers.