Key Actions for Protecting Nail Technicians from Chemical Exposure

In light of recent news reports, I would be remiss if I did not discuss the protection of nail technician health and safety. As a provider of liability and workers’ compensation insurance and risk management to salons and spas, we are deeply invested in worker safety.

So, how do you protect nail techs from the chemicals on which their careers depend? According to OSHA and NIOSH, exhaust ventilation systems may provide a 50 percent reduction in technicians’ exposure to chemicals in nail salons.

OSHA lists several steps salon owners can take to improve ventilation for workers:

  • “Let in fresh air, when possible, by opening doors and windows. If the salon has a ceiling vent, it should be turned on and working.
  • Always keep the nail salon’s exhaust system on.
  • If your salon does not have an exhaust system, always keep the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system on during work hours. The HVAC thermostat fan switch should always be in the “on” position (not “auto”) so that it runs even when the heat or air conditioner is off. The salon owner should have a HVAC contractor clean the HVAC system and replace the filters at least once a year.
  • Install exhaust fans wherever possible. Place fans near open doors or windows. Fans should pull air in one end of the salon and push it out of the other end.
  • If the salon has ventilated tables, make sure they are turned on. Also, change the charcoal filters at least once a month and clean out the catch basin at least once a week.
  • Consider using portable ventilation machines to remove dust and chemicals directly from the work area.”

We also have the following recommendations for safety around salon chemicals:

  • Do not purchase bulk chemicals (i.e., powder to form acrylic nails) from companies outside the US (thus outside FDA jurisdiction). These can cause severe skin problems.
  • Ensure that employees store chemicals in their original containers with correct labels and instructions.
  • If you re-bottle bulk solutions and chemicals, label the containers clearly, especially the dispenser bottles.

If a staff member approaches you with a health concern, ensure they seek medical attention promptly. Take it seriously before it turns into a bigger problem. Workers’ compensation claims will happen—no work place is perfectly safe. When they do, file a claim as quickly as possible. This helps your technicians get the care they need and return to work in a timely manner.

As you surely know, your nail technicians are the face, hands and backbone of your salon. Protecting their health is the right thing to do, for them and for your business. Worker health must be a top priority.

Sean Brownyard is executive program manager for SASSI, the Salon and Spa Specialty Insurance program at Brownyard Group. He can be reached at

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Originally posted on Modern Salon

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