The hairdressing sector in Ireland which employs nearly 20,000 people will face a huge overhaul of its safety standards if a new EU proposal is signed into law.
The European Framework agreement on the protection of occupational health and safety in the hairdressing sector was signed in Brussels on 26th April 2012 by the EC Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs. It has long been recognised that hairdressers are continuously exposed to serious occupational health risks and that improving their working conditions is urgently required.
The agreement provides that employers must take measures to help employees avoid repeated contact for long periods with water and skin irritation substances and they will be forced in future to organise a balance between wet and dry work activities. The European Commission is currently assessing whether to introduce a new EC Directive to give full legal force to the agreement which would make the rules legally binding on all EU member states.
Fears have also been expressed that the new rules may lead to hairdressers taking legal action seeking compensation for work related injuries such as the following:
● Lower back problems caused by standing for prolonged periods.
● Shoulder problems caused when cutting or styling hair.
● Neck problems caused from turning constantly from side to side to view client’s hair.
● Repetitive strain injuries caused by gripping of utensils.
● Skin damage caused by handling hair cosmetics.
● Infection caused by bacteria and viruses due to infected brushes, combs, scissors, razors, clippers and towels.
Speaking about the new EU safety rules Liam Moloney, a Naas based Solicitor said today, “there are serious health risks associated with working for many years in hairdressing salons. In the UK alone it is estimated that 70% of hairdressers have suffered from work-related skin disorders at some point during their career and the cost of work-related skin diseases has been estimated to be about €5 billion a year in the EU and musco-skeletal disorders (MSD) are five times more prevalent among hairdressers”, he continued “this new agreement can be made legally binding in all EU member states if the European Commission issues an EU Directive which will radically change the nature of the Irish hairdressing industry.”