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April 30, 2012

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Hairdressing sector agrees new measures to boost health and safety

Hairdressers’ union UNI Europa Hair & Beauty and the sector’s European body for employers, Coiffure EU, have agreed new guidance on managing the safety and health of hairdressers at work.

The new agreement is said to build on existing national best practices in Member States that are effective in reducing occupational-health risks. It addresses, in particular, specific risks in the use of materials, products and tools to protect the skin and respiratory tract, and the need for sufficient space and ventilation in salons where chemical substances are transferred, or mixed.

Hairdressing is one of the most high-risk professions for occupational skin diseases. In some countries, up to 70 per cent of hairdressers suffer from work-related skin damage, such as dermatitis at some point during their career – around 10 times more than the average for workers of all sectors, according to the European Trade Union Institute.

The signatory parties emphasise that the agreement is a regulation by social partners, for social partners, and is tailor-made for small businesses, as hairdressing salons, on average, have fewer than three workers. They also estimate that the costs of implementing the measures could be just over 1 per cent of the annual turnover of an average salon.

Coiffure EU and UNI Europa Hair & Beauty will now ask the European Commission for their agreement to be made legally binding in the EU. Before presenting a legislative proposal to the Council of Ministers, the Commission will carry out an assessment of the representative status of the signatory parties, their mandate and the legality of each clause of the agreement, in relation to existing EU law.

Welcoming the signing of the new social partner agreement, László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, underlined that “hairdressers today experience a much higher-than-average rate of occupational skin disease and musculoskeletal disorders. The agreement is an important step in helping reduce these risks for all workers in the hairdressing sector in the EU.”

But the UK National Hairdressers’ Federation criticised the plans as “vague and intrusive”.

Its president Mark Coray said: “What’s more, the vast majority of what is being recommended is, in fact, already covered by UK health and safety law. The main difference is that UK law retains enough flexibility to allow salon owners to make reasonable, risk-assessed decisions about the day-to-day running of their businesses while, at the same time, ensuring workers are correctly protected.

“The EU proposals would mean a regime of coercion and compulsion, which is never good for business.”

To view the agreement, visit the EU Coiffure website here.

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