What are the legal and regulatory requirements for health and safety?
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the primary legislation regarding health and safety for businesses in England, Scotland and Wales. Various regulations concerning particular aspects of health and safety have been made under this Act, including the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which provide for the requirement to carry out risk assessments.
In Northern Ireland, The Health and Safety at Work Order 1978 (Northern Ireland) is the equivalent primary legislation, under which various regulations have been made, including the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 2000 (Northern Ireland).
The above legislation applies to all businesses irrespective of size and covers all employees.
What does this mean for my business?
Poor health and safety practices not only put staff at risk of injury but also put you and your business at risk of enforcement action in the event of breaches of the legislation. Magistrates’ Courts can issue fines and even custodial sentences in the event of a conviction.
The main legal principles for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland under the above legislation are that:
- The health, safety and welfare of staff should be maintained at all times. The work place should provide clean and hygienic facilities, including the availability of drinking water, changing areas where required and toilets and first aid rooms in larger organisations.
- Both customers and employees should be protected against any risks that may occur as a result of activities on the premises.
1. Hazardous substances
Some ingredients in beauty and cleaning products can irritate the skin leading to dermatitis (e.g. solvents in nail varnish removers). Workers in hairdressers, beauty salons and nail bars are at potential risk of developing skin and respiratory ill health conditions if good working practices and effective exposure control methods when using hazardous substances are not applied.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has identified that up to 70 per cent of hairdressers suffer from work-related skin damage such as dermatitis at some point during their career, although most cases are preventable through putting in place the correct control measures.
- Some ingredients in products can cause skin allergies and asthma (e.g. liquids and powders in acrylic systems for artificial nails)
- Dust filings from artificial nails can cause wheezing, chest tightness and asthma
- Acrylic fumes can cause headaches, dizziness and nausea
Further guidance for hairdressers on how to prevent dermatitis is available on the HSE website.
All hazardous substances should be identified. Hazardous chemicals or substances should be handled and stored securely. The risk of emission and inhalation through vapours should be controlled. These include vapours from chemical products used for cleaning and beauty and hairdressing products containing chemicals, such as hair dyes (particularly hydrogen peroxide for permanent dyes). Any chemicals that are more hazardous should be kept in limited access areas.
- Employers should put in place safe working practices to help prevent contact dermatitis. This includes staff wearing gloves when using chemicals and washing and drying hands thoroughly. A moisturiser/barrier cream should be used where necessary
- Keep the workplace well ventilated to disperse vapour
- Use good work techniques that avoid or minimise contact with harmful substances and minimise leaks and spills
- Patch/skin testing should be used for customers for treatments where advised by manufacturers
- Provide an extractor hood or down draught table for nail work
2. The provision of equipment
Appropriate equipment for carrying out hair and beauty treatments and other work activities should be provided for use by staff and it must be adequately maintained. Where safer, alternative products cannot be used, precautions should be taken to minimise the risk when using hazardous products. This may include the provision of personal protective clothing (PPE) for staff, such as the use of gloves or face masks to prevent contact with the skin or inhalation. Staff should not have to pay for their own PPE. Customers’ clothes must be fully protected with gown and towels for relevant treatments or hair cuts.
Tools, equipment, and work surfaces must be kept clean, well maintained, and sterilised or disinfected to prevent cross-infection/contamination. Broken equipment should be removed and labelled as ‘out of use’.
A template work equipment checklist and fact sheet guidance on PPE can be downloaded from the FSB Legal Hub.
3. Health and safety training
This involves the appointment of competent staff to provide supervision and instruction and the provision of health and safety training where required, for example, for first aid and other aspects of health and safety relevant to the employee’s work activities or the products they use in any customer treatments.
Managers/supervisors must ensure all staff are fully inducted and trained to comply with health, safety and welfare measures in the salon. For example, staff should be reminded that flammable products such as aerosol hairsprays must be kept away from naked flames and other heat sources and that manufacturers’ instructions must always be followed.
This will include ensuring that staff, for example:
- Understand and follow clean, tidy and safe standards of working in the salon
- Are able to follow measures identified by the employer’s risk assessment
- Remove spillages, report slippery surfaces, e.g. oils and spills, and remove or report obstacles
- Use clean/sterilised/disinfected tools, equipment and work surfaces
A template training record, so that you can evidence the fact that your staff have received appropriate training, is available on the FSB Legal Hub, together with further training templates and guidance.
4. Employees’ responsibilities
Employees have their own duties under health and safety legislation as follows:
- To take care of their own health and safety and that of others
- To co-operate with employers on health and safety, which includes following instructions given to employees through health and safety training, as set out above
- To correctly use work equipment as directed by the employer, including PPE
- Not to interfere with or misuse anything provided for their health, safety or welfare
5. Accident reporting
Provision for reporting and recording incidents in the workplace, such as accident books, must be put in place. Certain accidents or incidents must be reported to the HSE.
Factsheet guidance on accident reporting and a template accident, incident, near-miss record form is available on the FSB Legal Hub.
6. Health and safety policies
Ensure the business has a health and safety policy and risk assessments, which are kept under regular review so that they remain adequate and up-to-date. These need to be in writing where you employ 5 or more staff. However, where you employ fewer staff, it is best practice for you to have these in writing, so you can evidence these have been carried out.
A template risk assessment form and health and safety policy are available on the FSB Legal Hub.
7. Fire risk assessment
In addition, a fire risk assessment will need to be carried out for the premises from where you operate your business. A template fire risk assessment form is available on the FSB Legal Hub.
8. First Aid provision
Risk assessments should be carried out to identify the level of first aid provision needed and everyone at work must be made aware of first aid arrangements. Legislation requires that there should be appropriate facilities for first aid, including first aid boxes in appropriate locations and access to the appropriate number of qualified first aiders.
The number of first aiders required varies depending on the size of the organization and the likelihood of accidents occurring, as identified by the risk assessment. As a general guideline, one first aider should be appointed for every 50 people. In higher risk areas, this ratio may need to be increased. Large or higher risk premises should have a first aid room. Factsheet guidance on first aid is available on the FSB Legal Hub.
Although not a statutory requirement, businesses should ensure they have in place adequate insurance to cover accidents to members of the public and customers, such as public liability insurance. As soon as you employ anyone, you are legally required to obtain employers’ liability insurance. Your certificate for employers’ liability insurance must be displayed, either physically on the premises or electronically.
10. Health and safety poster
You must also display the health and safety poster on your premises. You can download one for free from the HSE, available in different sizes.
Who is responsible for putting these measures in place?
The person who will be responsible for helping the business meet its health and safety duties can be the director or owner of the business, a senior employee (such as a manager or supervisor), someone from outside the business, or a combination of all three. But whoever they are they must be competent. A competent person is someone who has the necessary skills, experience, and knowledge to manage health and safety.
If you have someone who is competent within the business it is advisable to use them rather than someone external, as they are best placed to know the risks specific to your business.
It is not strictly necessary for the competent person to have formal training or to have attended a health and safety training course; however, this may help them to complete the necessary task and can assist you in proving evidence of your competencies should you wish to apply for a third-party health and safety accreditation scheme, or in the event of an HSE visit.