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Hazards of Nail Salons

When thinking about workplace injuries, most of us think about heavy labor jobs, such as construction or the back-breaking work of turning patients in health care facilities. The nail salon, found on almost every commercial block in New York City, has its own workplace hazards to the extent that the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) has issued factsheets and training guides in four languages. The goal of these publications is to alert nail salon employees to the hazards they face and inform them of their rights.

Nail salon workers face potential occupational hazards that include:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries from working while bending over a work table or pedicure station
  • Chemical injuries from nail polish remover, which contains acetone; finger, nail glue remover, which contains acetonitrile; acetate, found in both nail polish and nail polish remover; and many other chemicals found in nail polish, nail polish remover, nail hardener, liquid nails, and primer
  • Infections caused by exposure to fungus, bacteria and viruses.  After all, technicians are working on people's feet and hands

Many of these hazards can be mitigated with some common-sense precautions that include using masks and gloves, making sure that the salon is properly ventilated, disposing of chemical soaked waste in covered containers, and having chairs that provide support and tables that are the correct heights.  

It is particularly important that nail salon workers and their employers make the effort to stay safe and provide a working environment as free as possible from hazards such as those above.  Nail salon workers often work very long hours, and the cumulative effect of chemical exposure or poorly designed tables and chairs can quickly add up, causing injury and illness. Nail salons are required to provide training and safety equipment to keep workers healthy. This training must be provided in a language that the workers understand. Workers whose employers fail to do these things can file complaints with the relevant state or federal agencies, such as NYCOSH or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).