September 2010

Charlene Abretske

Beauty Business Buzz | Charlene Abretske


Ensure the Health and Safety of Your Workplace

The worst environmental disaster in American history began to unfold on April 20, 2010. We all watched, stunned as we saw the cataclysm develop slowly in the Gulf of Mexico.

Day after day, the destruction worsened and heartbreaking photos of wildlife caught up in the devastated ecosystem reflected the damage in a very real way for the whole country.

As the fishermen were being employed to clean up the spill, allegations concerning the treatment of the workers by BP surfaced.

OSHA regulations were not being followed, MSDS sheets were not given out and proper safety equipment was not provided to workers. Furthermore, many were discouraged from wearing the protective equipment that was issued, and were allegedly told, “it would give the wrong impression” if they wore it.

Watching this unfold brought to mind all of the hazardous chemicals we come into contact with in our salons. More importantly, it made me think about what we need to do on a daily basis to ensure the health and safety of our co-workers, customers, and ourselves.

OSHA began operating in 1971 as a result of The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to protect workers from harm on the job. This Act established for the first time a nationwide, federal program to protect almost the entire work force from job-related death, injury and illness.

Unfortunately, the subjects of health and safety do not come up as often as they should when we think about the salon industry. We all like to focus on the artistry, glam and glitz of beauty. However, without following the proper procedures in our salons, we can face fines, loss of license, or worse, face a lawsuit or cause harm to someone’s health. OSHA has a detailed process all business owners and employers must follow to protect their workers and their customers from risky substances and ensure safe practices.

A great resource to begin with is the OSHA website. There is a plethora of information on their website to get you started. Try the free “on- site consultation service” for small and medium sized businesses. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards and assist in establishing safety and health management systems. There will be no fees or penalties associated with consultations, and they are meant to be a means to help you protect yourself as a business owner. For more information, go to:

Who is responsible? Business owners need to be very aware of the status of the people operating in their business. Simply having booth rental contracts in place does not make the relationship legitimate. To double check your employment statuses, refer to the guidelines from the IRS, listed on the IRS website

If there is a complaint filed or an incident occurs, each salon will be evaluated on an individual basis. Booth renters must provide information for any hazardous chemicals they are using to all employees and other workers in the salon. It is also recommended that you give MSDS sheets to the salon owner if you are using products that are different from what others are using.

If you are a salon owner, it is a good idea to make sure you have a MSDS binder with all the information on all the products used from the manufacturers. In addition, make sure you are familiar with ingredients, know proper usage and recommended clean up when dealing with hazardous chemicals.

For more information on how to practice safely in your salon or spa, make sure you visit your state board of barbering and cosmetology website. Many of these sites will offer you information on board of health inspections, including what the most common violations are, photos of what violations look like and how to avoid them. There may be quality control services in your area that provide inspections by former health inspectors to make sure all your ducks are in a row prior to your next visit from the health department.

What is safe? An important thing to remember is that, just because a product manufacturer sells something, does not mean it is completely safe. Large exposure to chemicals deemed safe in small quantities could be an enormous detriment to your personal health and safety and the health and safety of your salon. Products do not have to be harmful to anyone in the salon in order to yield great results. Use your discretion wisely before you add new products or services.

Remember the old adage “It hurts to be beautiful.” Maybe it is time to let that go. In this day and age, it should not hurt you or your workers to continue to create beauty. Remember, your clients depend on you.

Charlene Abretske is an independent business advisor. To reach her email or call (760)453-1882.