Workers in nail bars putting health at risk with chemicals

Health and Safety Authority warns it will carry out more inspections and issues guidance for staff

Guidance published by the Health and Safety Authority says nail products including acrylic nail liquids can cause dermatitis and allergic reactions. Image: iStock

Guidance published by the Health and Safety Authority says nail products including acrylic nail liquids can cause dermatitis and allergic reactions. Image: iStock

 

Workers in nail bars are putting their health in danger through poor understanding of the risks of handling certain chemicals used in the sector, the health safety watchdog has warned.

The Health and Safety Authority has published guidance on chemical health and safety in such businesses and said the findings of inspections it had carried out indicated a poor understanding of the risks. It also noted a lack of standardised qualification for the work being carried on in nail bars.

It warned that as well as the risk of severe skin reactions such as dermatitis from liquid and powder acrylic nail systems, the fumes could cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and irritation. The filing of artificial nails could cause asthma, it said.

Formaldehyde in nail strengtheners could also cause cancer and was suspected of causing genetic defects. Another chemical used to stop nail polish cracking was banned in Europe and was dangerous for pregnant women.

A total of 15 inspections were carried out in the nail bar industry by its occupational hygiene inspectors as part of the chemicals programme of work last year.

Nine nail bars, two suppliers of nail bar products and one training organisation were included in the inspection programme.

“Findings from the nail bar inspections indicated a poor understanding of the chemical safety and health risks associated with nail bar products and their potential to cause ill health to employees,” the HSA said in a statement.

“In particular, control of chemical risks to employees carrying out higher risk nail services was often unsatisfactory in the opinion of the inspectors.”

It says “higher risk” services are those involving acrylic nail systems, which use a liquid and powder mixed together to make artificial nails. These would be considered higher risk to workers, the HSA said.

Very strong smell

“These products can irritate the skin and respiratory tract. They have a very strong smell and high flammability. As with all chemical products used it is important that the staff are aware of any hazardous properties and follow the manufacturers’ advice on using the product safely.”

Inspections also revealed a lack of understanding on how to select adequate personal protective equipment when required.

Surgical masks, for example, would not protect staff from dusts and solvents.

Guidance published by the authority says nail products including acrylic nail liquids can cause dermatitis and allergic reactions.

“These can contain ethyl methacrylate (EMA) which is less hazardous than using methyl methacrylate (MMA). Products containing MMA are not recommended for nail services.”

Methacrylic acid primer and non-methacrylic acid primers used to prepare the nail surface for artificial nail extensions may cause skin sensitisation and chemical burns to skin or eyes.

The authority also warned workers in nail bars that infections or diseases such as viral hepatitis may be acquired from some clients.

The inspectors issued written advice to the operators and a risk assessment prepared by the HSA’s nail bar section was brought to their attention.

Guidance developed following the inspection programme has been published on the HSA’s website. It also said the nail bar industry would be subject to further inspections.