Hair Dressing Workplace Accidents

Hairdressers have been identified as one of the occupational groups with the highest risk of developing work-related contact dermatitis, with up to 70% of hairdressers suffering from some form of skin damage at some point in their career.

Many of the chemicals present in hairdressing products, and a hairdresser’s frequent exposure to these chemicals, means that they are more likely to obtain work-related contact dermatitis.

  • Dermatitis is not contagious and can develop at any time, or in some people, not at all.
  • There are two types of contact dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis & allergic contact dermatitis.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis: this tends to develop gradually through frequent wet working or working with milder chemicals like shampoo. However, it can flare up after a few contacts with strong chemicals like bleach.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis: this can develop quickly after only a few contacts with a substance like shampoos or colours. It can take months or years for the allergy to develop. But once you are allergic, you are allergic for life.
  • If you become allergic to something in the salon, it could well affect all aspects of your life; things you can become allergic to at work might well also be in things you use at home, like your shampoo or your household cleaners.

The main signs and symptoms of work-related contact dermatitis are:

  • Redness
  • Dryness
  • Flaking/Scaling
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Cracking/Blistering

What are the causes of dermatitis?

The most common causes of dermatitis are:

  • wet working
  • Exposure to chemicals (shampoo, colour or bleaching products, cleaning products)

Hairdressers are more at risk of developing dermatitis if their hands are in contact with water for long periods of time, or if their hands are wet several times a day. So the staff that spend their time doing a lot of the washing are more at risk.

There are several ways that your hands can come into contact with water and products:

  • Handling equipment soaked in chemicals
  • Washing/shampooing/colouring hair with bare hands
  • Splashing chemicals on to your skin when mixing or handling them
  • Aerosols and dust landing on your skin and on surfaces that you might touch
  • Touching contaminated clothing, tools or containers

Preventing Dermatitis

You can easily prevent dermatitis from being a problem by undertaking a few sensible precautions. The HSE highlighted some safety measures which can be extremely beneficial to your skin if followed:

  • Wear disposable non-latex gloves when rinsing, shampooing, colouring, bleaching, etc.
  • Dry your hands thoroughly with a soft cotton or paper towel.
  • Moisturise after washing your hands, as well as at the start and end of each day. It’s easy to miss fingertips, finger webs and wrists.
  • Change gloves between clients. Make sure you don’t contaminate your hands when you take them off.
  • Check skin regularly for early signs of dermatitis.

Key Facts

  • In 2007/08, an estimated 20, 000 individuals suffered “skin problems” which they believed to be work-related
  • There were 2617 cases of occupational skin disease in 2007.
  • 1780 (68%) were contact dermatitis
  • 614 (23%) were skin cancers.
  • Wet work, and rubber chemicals and materials were cited by dermatologists and occupational physicians as the main causes of skin disease.
  • The most common occupations for acquiring a skin condition in 2005-2007 were:
    • floral arrangers
    • florists
    • hairdressers
    • barbers
    • beauticians
    • dental nurses
    • chemical and related process operatives

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