Kathy Lopez, account manager for SASSI, the Salon and Spa Specialty Agency, which has served...

Kathy Lopez, account manager for SASSI, the Salon and Spa Specialty Agency, which has served salons with specialized liability coverage for more than 70 years. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began spreading across the U.S., many people worried that salons would struggle to survive. Though this time has no doubt been a challenge, salons across the country have reopened, are reopening or are considering it. Even where salons are not reopening, stylists and barbers are contriving inventive solutions, offering Instagram tutorials or cutting hair on sidewalks and in driveways to help maintain safety and social distancing.

As salons and barbershops continue to work through recent COVID-19 spikes, insurance isn’t the only risk management practice salons need. As we well know now, it is important to have a plan for reopening and operating during these unique and confusing times. There are a number of safety and sanitation steps salon owners should consider implementing when reopening and operating during the pandemic. From a risk management perspective, these include:

Maintaining and enforcing physical distancing.

We are all sick of hearing about “social distancing” or physical distancing, but this is crucial to keeping clients and staff healthy. A social distancing policy minimizes the opportunity for the virus to spread, which is why the CDC currently recommends a minimum of six feet between people. So far, successful salons have enforced the six feet requirement by admitting clients one at a time or having clients sit in every other chair. Plus, stylists are using protection such as plexiglass shields when they need to get closer. Many salons are eliminating waiting rooms, taking clients by appointment only and capping the number of customers per day. Plus, it is important to provide staff members with masks and gloves. Offer these to customers who do not bring their own, in addition to offering them hand sanitizer at the door.

Cleaning and sanitizing.

Even before COVID, I often discussed the importance of cleaning and sanitation in salons and spas. But now more than ever, regular cleaning and sanitizing of the salon will help clients and employees feel safe. Take the time to make cleaning schedules and disinfect all surfaces, appliances and tools, and document what is cleaned and sanitized and when.

Stepping up cleaning and sanitation may mean floors and surfaces are wet more often. Slips and falls are one of the most common sources of insurance claims at salons and spas, so be sure to place “wet floor” signs or take other steps to help stylists and guests avoid a slippery hazard.

It’s also important to make your efforts known. Advertise what you’re doing to keep a clean work environment on your front window and let people know when they book appointments how you plan on sanitizing hair washing stations, chairs and more. By going above and beyond, you can present your salon in a different, more comfortable light for both employees and customers.

Securing insurance coverage.

As an insurance professional, I have seen salons and stylists cancel and restart policies over the past few months. After a long closure, restarting your professional liability insurance coverage is critical. Make sure to submit an application again, just like applying for new coverage. Some insurers allow salons to begin coverage the same day they apply, which can be helpful as states constantly adjust reopening and shutdown procedures and orders. When reapplying for liability insurance coverage, take into account how your anticipated income for the year may have changed and include that on your application. It may help reduce your insurance premium — talk to your insurer or broker with any questions.

Consider hold harmless waivers

We have received many questions from many salon and spa professionals curious about the usefulness of hold harmless waivers, and for good reason — COVID has made these forms a hot topic. Asking customers to sign waivers can help confirm they are aware of the risks of receiving salon services and potential harm they may incur by coming to the salon for an appointment. Salons cannot eliminate the risk of COVID-19, so ensuring clients understand their risks has the potential to limit salon owners’ liability if someone claims they contracted the coronavirus during a haircut.

However, this is not a perfect solution. It is also not an insurance issue as much as it is a legal issue, so I recommend salon owners contact a trusted attorney hold harmless agreements if they have questions. Plus, attorneys can supply an accurately worded hold harmless agreement, which will be more effective than a boilerplate template downloaded from the web.

Follow state guidelines

This is the most critical step to take in managing your COVID-19 risks. State guidelines for reopening are easily available online. When reopening or maintaining limited operations throughout the pandemic, you should take the time to review and address their recommendations and requirements. For salons, guidelines to look for are: whether or not masks are mandatory, if appointment-only systems are required, and what amenities, such as coffee stations, are not allowed.

Not only do you risk the health and safety of those in your salon by not following guidelines, but in some places, you may risk being shut down by local authorities, or even losing your license. Furthermore, some counties are currently encouraging people to report businesses that are flaunting public health guidelines. Even if a customer merely leaves a tattling Yelp review or posts a negative social media update, they can damage your reputation.

Salons are continuing to reopen and return to business, despite the challenges the industry suffered over the last few months. While the industry may be trending positively now, to keep this trend going, salon owners need to ensure their operations are practicing proper risk management. Social distancing, sanitizing, securing insurance and waivers and following state guidelines will keep your staff and customers healthy while ensuring your business stays protected from potential liabilities.

Kathy Lopez is account manager for SASSI, the Salon and Spa Specialty Agency. A division of W.H. Brownyard Corp.®, SASSI has served salons with specialized liability coverage for more than 70 years. You can reach Kathy at klopez@brownyard.com or 631-666-5050.

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