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Case studies

Tracy

Tracy has been in the hairdressing industry for 17 years, and now runs her own salon in Yorkshire, employing eight members of staff.

A few years ago, Tracy employed a new hairdresser who suffered from dermatitis. She contacted her local council for advice, and they told her about ‘Bad Hand Day?’ and the five simple steps for preventing dermatitis becoming a problem. Tracy had always provided gloves for use when colouring hair, but she now introduced a salon policy for staff to wear them for all hairdressing tasks, including shampooing and cutting hair. She also introduced moisturising creams and a program of monthly hand checks for employees. These measures helped to control the dermatitis and allowed the hairdresser to continue working in the job she loved. .

In order to avoid significant costs, Tracy now supervises her staff to ensure they follow the salon policy. On one occasion, the hairdresser with dermatitis chose not to wear her gloves for cutting and suffered a very bad flare-up on her two cutting fingers, resulting in several days sick leave and a loss of trade.

Tracy says that her team find the longer length non-latex gloves that HSE recommend comfortable. Tracy also provides gloves to her staff to use at home when cleaning or in contact with chemicals and water as she recognises that once a hairdresser suffers from dermatitis they have to change their lifestyle to protect their skin and ultimately their career.

For her efforts, Tracy’s salon has won the regional award for good practice in the Habia Health & Safety Awards scheme for the past two years running.

Suzanne

Suzanne Willis has been a hairdresser since 2000. Seven months ago she and her husband Ken opened their salon “Suzanne Willis Hair Design” in Hull.

A few weeks ago as part of the Bad Hand Day activity by local authorities the salon was visited by a local Environmental Health Officer (EHO). During the skin care assessment the EHO checked all the salon workers hands for signs of dermatitis. Suzanne was really surprised to learn that the chapping on her hands was actually dermatitis.

Speaking about the visit from the EHO Suzanne said: “I was advised to start a suitable hand care regime straight away, which included wearing gloves for wet work. Since the visit I have carefully followed the advice and my dermatitis has started to clear up. At the moment the areas on my hands that are affected include both my small and ring fingers, from the knuckle to the tip of the finger. The chapped skin has scabbed over now; my hands are healing but the still look really red and blotchy. The one thing that is really clear to me now is that hairdressers must wear gloves. Your hands are your tools and it is up to you to protect them.”

Around the same time that Suzanne found out she had dermatitis a member of staff found out she had a latex allergy while blowing up balloons. The EHO was able to Suzanne and Ken of the disposable non-latex gloves HSE recommends to hairdressers; Ken ordered them immediately for all the staff in the salon to use to protect their hands.

Bonny

Bonny had dermatitis when she was a trainee hairdresser 12 years ago. “It was horrendous,” says Bonny remembering the dermatitis at its worst. “My hands would scab over, they would be painfully itchy and bled; the cold weather always made them much worse. I eventually went to the doctor who advised me to wear gloves for all wet-work, I even needed to wear gloves for washing out a cup. At night I would have to wear cotton gloves to protect my hands and I constantly needed to moisturise my hands to stop them drying out.”

Bonny currently works at a salon on York, despite having dermatitis over a decade ago she still needs to protect her hands to make sure the dermatitis does not come back. She always wears gloves for wet work, ensures they are dried thoroughly using a cotton towel and moisturises them throughout the day.

Lucy

During the salon visits for the Bad Hand Day campaign a Environmental Health Officer with Hull City Council met with a 46 year old, self employed hairdresser, Lucy Mullins*.

Lucy has had dermatitis on her hands since she was 14 years old and started in the industry as a Saturday girl. Her dermatitis is now so severe that her skin becomes irritated through contact with nickel, so even for cutting hair she needs to wear gloves to avoid contact with nickel in the scissors.

Currently the dermatitis on Lucy’s hands affects the tops of her hands, her fingers and her palms. The areas of her fingers that go through scissor handles are particularly damaged.

Until the health officers visit, Lucy was unaware that the latex in the gloves she had been using when her hands were really sore and chapped were contributing to her skin condition. On the advice of the EHO Lucy is now practising a good skin care regime and making sure that she only uses vinyl or nitrile gloves, dispelling the myth that dermatitis was just something she had to suffer.

* name changed to protect the hairdresser’s business
Updated 2009-03-09