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Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., are calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to update its standards for chemical, ergonomic and biological hazards as they relate to dangerous working conditions at nail salons following a scathing May 8, 2015, expose in The New York Times.
Nail technicians working in salons across the United States face possible health hazards every day, including exposure to chemicals found in glues, polishes, polish removers, emollients and other salon products. These chemicals may be a factor in health conditions such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses, skin disorders, liver disease, reproductive health problems, and cancer.
Additionally, salon workers often endure muscle strains from working in awkward positions or from repetitive motions, and have a high risk of infection from contact with client skin, nails and blood, according to OSHA.
The senators sent a letter to OSHA administrator David Michaels, asking what the agency needs from Congress to conduct an expedited update of the permissible exposure limits for chemicals found in nail salon products, what remedies OSHA can provide nail technicians who have suffered from exposure to chemicals, and for a detailed inspection plan in order to enforce existing and future standards.
Staying Healthy While Giving Manicures and Pedicures
Nail products such as polishes, nail strengtheners, polish removers and artificial nail liquids can contain many chemicals, some of which are known to be harmful. With repeated use or exposure to high concentrations, these chemicals could damage workers’ health.
Some potentially hazardous chemicals, the types of products they can be found in, and how they can affect workers’ health include:
OSHA requires product manufacturers to provide salon owners with safety data sheets for any products they buy that contain hazardous chemicals. Salon employers must maintain these safety data sheets under OSHA’s hazard communication standard. Employers are also required to train workers so that they understand the potential hazards of the chemicals and how to use the products safely. Safety data sheets must provide the following information:
Employers must provide the safety data sheets to any worker who asks for a copy.
Additional steps to keep workers safe from chemical hazards in nail salons include:
Preventing Musculoskeletal Problems
Nail salon workers are predisposed to ergonomic and musculoskeletal problems as a result of leaning over a worktable for long periods of time and doing repetitive movements like filing and buffing nails. OSHA recommends workers reduce stress to the body and help avoid aches and pains by employing these ergonomic practices:
OSHA advises nail salon workers to “report any health problems you think are from the products you use in the workplace to your employer and doctor. Employers must follow up on reports of health problems from workers.”
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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