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Industry Risk and the Hierarchy of Hazardous Controls

By Simon Clark of Simon Clark Hairdressing, Port Elizabeth

At the start of the crisis when salons remained open most focussed on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer to stop the spread of the disease. With moves a foot in the industry to try and get us back to work as soon as possible I thought it would be an idea to share the Hierarchy of Hazard Controls. One thing is certain regardless of when we go back to work there is almost certainly going to be a risk of exposure to Covid 19. As such it is important that Salon owners start planning now. To do this we need to understand what measures we can put in place to protect ourselves and our staff and through that our businesses. This is best summarised by examining the Hierarchy of Hazardous Controls:

The Hierarchy lays out the most effective way of dealing with hazards in an international standardised format. At the top of the list of most effective controls we have elimination for instance if a repair needs to be done to your sign at the top of the building, rather remove the sign and work on it at ground level. Eliminating the risk of working at height. The only way to do this in our present situation is remain under lockdown so this is not an option.

Substitution controls would be replacing the hazard with a safer option, for instance using the formaldehyde free Sweet Shampoo instead of a Brazilian that contains it. This is not an option either as there is nothing we can swop Covid 19 with.

Engineering controls involve placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard, Examples would be putting each of your styling chairs in a self contained booth. Thus eliminating any exposure to the person sitting next door. Putting a screen over the top of the basins so that there is a barrier between the shampooist and the client. It is noted that engineering controls are generally expensive to implement but are usually cheaper in the long run.

Administrative controls. This is changing the way your staff work and it is here that salons can implement the biggest changes:

Implement a daily staff healthcare questionnaire. To be completed before the staff member leaves for work. Anyone with symptoms stays at home!

Implement a client health care questionnaire. This should be done over the phone before the client leaves for the salon to prevent any unnecessary contact. Any client with symptoms is offered the opportunity to rebook. Do not take a chance if you are sick your chances of working are zero!

Reduce the number of clients you see at a time. Yes I appreciate that this seems counter intuitive, we have just endured a forced shut down with the consequent loss of income. However packing your salon with clients and staff from day one is a sure fire way to increase the risk of spreading the disease. The logical place to start here is to only book 1 client at a time – no back to back booking.

Isolate your staff by splitting them into teams who only work together with no contact between teams. We've all heard the stories of shops shut down because one staff member caught Covid 19. If one of your staff gets it, chances are they all will and then where will you be? Our plan is to divide the staff into teams. Each team works a day and sterilizes the salon at the start and end of each day, in addition to the individual client protocols. No staff members are allowed to have any contact with any staff member outside of their team. That way if 1 team member gets infected, they are limited as to how many people they can infect.

Increase the work spacing between clients and staff. Spacing between clients varies from salon to salon however a simple plan would be to only use alternate chairs or basins. This comes with the added benefit of placing a barrier albeit a small one between people.

Throw away all your magazines! These traditionally get passed from client to client and are the perfect vector to spread the disease.

Most salons are familiar with PPE of masks, gloves etc. It is important to note gloves are only effective if you change them after each client contact. Ie every time you stop working on a client you change your gloves. Simply put rather than wearing gloves all the time, you are much better washing your hands after each contact.

Face masks are also only effective if both parties wear them so possibly look at getting a supply for your clients too.

Likewise all all capes, gowns, towels etc need to be washed after every client contact.

At present we are investigating dressing our staff in scrubs. These would be changed into at work, and changed out of before leaving for home again isloating a risk. I am also looking at the viability of gowns for staff to wear when dealing with individual clients.

It sounds trite but the saying ”adapt or die” has never been more relevant. If we are to survive this we need to reinvent ourselves and operating methods. On a positive note salons where one of the few industries that survived the great depression so it's not all bad news.

Image courtesy CDC

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