You might not think there’s much to do in the realm of health and safety in a beauty salon, but salon workers are actually exposed to toxic chemicals every single day. They’re found in nail polishes, hair treatments, removers and emollients and can cause problems like contact dermatitis, asthma and even worse issues such as reproductive loss, liver disease and cancer.

Salon workers also come in contact with a client’s skin, nails and sometimes even blood (anyone who goes for frequent manicures knows what it’s like to get accidentally nipped by cuticle scissors). This poses a significant infection risk for salon workers, so following a salon safety checklist is ultra important.

Always Have Proper Ventilation

Health and safety in a beauty salon only goes as far as your ventilation. This is an often-overlooked step that in the long term can lead to respiratory issues and even cancer. Salon treatments such as Brazilian blowouts often contain formaldehyde, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has certain guidelines to protect against exposure.

An air test cannot show 0.5 ppm of formaldehyde during an eight-hour work shift or 2 ppm during a 15-minute period. Salon owners who offer formaldehyde-based treatments must test the air every six months if readings show 0.5 ppm and every 12 months if readings show 2 ppm.

Even if your salon does not offer formaldehyde treatments, there are still other chemicals like acetone (nail polish remover), acetonitrile (fingernail glue remover) and ammonia (often found in hair dyes) that can cause health issues when inhaled. To prevent this, install proper ventilation over mixing stations, always keep your salon’s exhaust system on and place fans near open doors or windows to pull out air. If your salon does not have an exhaust system, always keep the HVAC thermostat on during work hours.

Proper Handling of Chemicals

Much like inhalation, skin exposure to certain salon chemicals can cause major health issues. OSHA recommends that employees wear gloves when dealing with toxic salon products (for example, while mixing peroxide-based hair lightener or applying nail glue). All food and drink should be covered, and workers should not be allowed to eat in work areas. They should also wash their hands before eating, drinking and applying cosmetics.

In addition, chemicals should also be stored in small bottles with clear labels. Trash cans should be metal and have self-closing lids (this prevents chemicals on cotton balls from evaporating into the air). You should also follow instructions for the safe disposal of used chemicals and never, ever pour them down a drain. You should add this information to a salon-cleaning checklist for employees.

Employees should also consider wearing an OSHA-approved respirator. For example, a dust mask can help reduce inhalation while using acrylic powders. A half-mask respirator with a cartridge should be worn to clean up a large chemical spill.

Preventing Aches and Pains

Salon workers do a lot of hunching over and a lot of standing. Aches and pains are a common hazard of the job. This can be reduced by wearing orthopedic insoles (for roles that require a lot of standing), using adjustable chairs, padding your workplace with a towel or foam pad, using a magnifying lens and having a spacious work station.

Sanitation Safety Standards

Sanitation is the hallmark of health and safety in a beauty salon. All equipment and furniture should be properly sterilized to prevent the spread of disease. In a hair salon, this could include the proper use of barbicide to disinfect combs and shears.

In a waxing station or massage parlor, this might include covering headrests and chairs with clean towels or paper for each new customer. In a nail salon, it’s sanitizing instruments like cuticle scissors, using new emery boards for each manicure or pedicure and requiring employees to wear gloves.

Consider creating a salon-cleaning checklist for employees with things like floor-sweeping best practices and other sterilization measures.

Proper Warning Signs

Water spills happen, especially in shampoo areas and bathrooms. If left without a warning, a puddle could turn into a lawsuit if someone slips. Your salon safety checklist should always include proper warning signs for customers and employees alike.

Add Fire Safety to Your Salon Safety Checklist

Believe it or not, a salon actually has some fire hazards. Even something as small as a candle lit during a massage session to relax clients can turn disastrous. Consider using electric candles instead. Blow dryers are also a common fire hazard because they use a lot of wattage, so avoid overloading outlets. Curling irons, clippers and blow dryers probably shouldn’t all be plugged into the same place at the same time. It’s also important to have a fire extinguisher on hand in case a problem arises.