18 February 2014

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has published a new report, Occupational Health and Safety in the Hairdressing Sector.

According to the Agency, the European hairdressing sector employs more than 1 million people in some 400,000 hairdressing salons with 350 million potential customers.

The report argues that hairdressers are exposed to serious occupational health risks and that improving working conditions must be a major priority. In this regard, the publication highlights the following research figures.

  • The cost of work-related skin diseases has been estimated to be about five billion euros a year in the EU alone. A UK study has reported that 70 % of hairdressers have suffered from work-related skin disorders at some point during their career.

  • In a French study it was found that, while hairdressers represent about 1% of the entire workforce, 20% of the women affected by work-related asthma are hairdressers.

  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer has rated its overall evaluation for “occupational exposures to chemicals” as a hairdresser or barber as “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A)”.

  • It is also estimated that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are five times more prevalent among hairdressers than the average worker.

The report argues that health and safety problems in the sector result in absences, lower productivity and untimely exit from the sector.

However, the Agency says, these health problems can be challenged effectively by introducing measures which usually cost very little. For example, the purchase and use of gloves costs only about 1% of average annual turnover.

In addition to setting out the risks faced by hairdressers, the report also discusses the protection that is available to hairdressers, including a Framework Agreement which aims to set minimum health and safety standards for the sector across Europe.