By Chris Gill, SME Senior Portfolio Analyst, RSA

Hair and beauty is a vibrant part of the UK business sector, making up around 20 per cent of small and medium-sized firms. Every year it’s estimated that around 100,000 people obtain hair and beauty qualifications.

It’s not an industry without hazards. Regular exposure to chemicals, heated appliances and sharp objects carries risks to both customers and stylists or beauticians.

Risks can also include repetitive strain injuries to both hands and the back although the single most persistent problems are skin complaints. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) estimates 70 per cent of hairdressers will suffer some form of work-related dermatitis during their career. These risks can be managed by following HSE advice and using longer length, latex gloves if using chemicals and applying moisturiser at the beginning and end of each day.

Research by Salon Services shows many customers feel regular visits to the hairdresser are a necessity and not a luxury. When beauty regimes are considered this way, it can be devastating when things go wrong. While it’s difficult to mitigate for customer dissatisfaction, there are steps which can be taken to avoid physical damage to customers due to chemicals in treatment solutions and wax. That includes avoiding mixing brands, always using solutions in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, and carrying out patch tests to determine whether a specific substance will cause an allergic inflammation on a customer.

While many risks can be reduced, some will be out of your control and it’s essential to ensure you are adequately protected. Employers Liability is compulsory if you have anyone under a contract of service or apprenticeship — including verbal and implied contracts as well as written. To assess whether you require Employers Liability insurance, guidance is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hse40.pdf.

Employer’s Liability insurance can usually be purchased with a package to cover the various aspects of operating a salon. You should strongly consider holding cover for public liability to protect the business not just against treatments that go wrong but also the general risk from trips and slips. In addition, a package will provide cover for the contents of the premises, any stock you hold, money on site and loss of revenue due to the business being interrupted by an insured event.

The hair and beauty industry sees many new treatments becoming available every year. The line between beauty treatments and cosmetic surgery has become increasingly blurred, and while for most salons the main work will be cutting, colouring, manicures and pedicures, when branching out into innovative treatments, new risks to the business, employees and customers should be considered.

For businesses, the key question is whether the increase in turnover will cover the cost of purchasing new equipment and ensuring stylists and beauticians have the qualifications they need. Insurers can take different approaches to providing liability cover for treatments so you should ensure your provider is aware of any new treatments you are proposing so adequate protection is in place.

For more information please visit: www.rsabroker.com