Hairdresser risks and hazards

Here’s how to avoid the most harmful hazards as a hairdresser

How to handle the most common risks and hazards

No business comes without risk. And no small business owner can be expected to eliminate all risks, all the time.

A responsible, successful small business owner, however, is one who manages risk effectively, plans for it, mitigates it as best they can, and has the right processes in place to make their business as safe as can be expected.

For hairdressing businesses, salons and barbers, risk comes in many shapes and styles. From scissors to slips and from shampoos to conditioners, there’s lots of potential hazards to be aware of.

Here, AXA examines the most common risks to a small hairdressing business, and some of the best ways to avoid the most harmful hazards where possible.

How to identify hairdresser workplace risks

As a business owner, it’s up to you to spot and highlight the risks present within your workplace. The first step towards identifying and controlling the possible risks to your hairdressing business is to perform a risk assessment.

It might sound pretty formal, but it doesn’t always need to be. A risk assessment simply involves working out any ways in which your business operations could potentially cause harm or injury to either yourself, an employee or a member of the public, then planning the steps you’ll take to mitigate those risks. It’s an important step in protecting your team, your customers and their property, while ensuring you’re complying with your responsibilities as an employer.

If your business has under five employees, you don’t need a formal written risk assessment, although it might still be a good exercise to keep your business safe. However, if you employ five staff or more full time, then your risk assessment should be a written health and safety policy that you can use to train your staff and prevent accidents.

Hazards and risks

It may help to split your risk assessment into hazards and risks and to know the difference between the two.


Hazards are objects or situations with the potential to cause harm. These could be items like tools, ladders or chemicals, or processes like lifting and moving stock or working at height.

Identify your hazards by examining each aspect of your business practices and asking yourself: what activities, processes, tools or substances could insure someone or harm their health? Check any accident records you might have, check manufacturer’s instructions or warning labels on any products you use, and visit the Health and Safety Executive.


Risk, on the other hand, is about assessing how likely things are to go wrong and how serious the implications might be if they do.

Risk is a part of everyday life and it’s impossible to eliminate every risk present in your business. But as a responsible salon owner, it’s your responsibility to do everything ‘reasonably practical’ to control the risks your business presents.

Most common hairdressing hazards

Slips or trips are one of the most common types of accident in any workplace, including hairdressing salons.

In a typical salon, it’s easy for cut hair, product spills, loose cords, cables and wet surfaces to result in hazardous floors and walkways. Slips can easily be caused by a floor being cleaned and left wet, or a product or water spilling onto the floor and not being noticed quickly enough, while trips are most commonly caused by loose cords or cables from a hairdryer or vacuum for example.

Top tips for avoiding this risk:

  • Make sure everyone knows which parts of the floor are still wet from cleaning. Stick a yellow ‘caution: wet surfaces’ sign over the area
  • When cleaning, use the right amount of the right cleaning product
  • Ensure spillages are dealt with promptly
  • Use a dry mop or squeegee to reduce drying time on surfaces
  • Spot clean where possible as you go through the day and always make sure staff and customers are aware of newly cleaned areas
  • Keep walkways as clear as possible of trip hazards like cords and cables, and keep communication with employees and staff of any cables in use, for example from a vacuum cleaner

One of the most common hairdressing hazards is skin damage from wet hand work, including dermatitis. Frequent contact with water and cleaning products like shampoo or conditioner can irritate the skin, leading to damage like rashes, blisters or dry, flaky skin.

The Health and Safety Executive suggests that up to 70% of hairdressers suffer from work-related skin damage like dermatitis at some point in their career.

In most cases, these types of hazards are preventable. Small things like using suitable disposable gloves and drying hands thoroughly can reduce the risk of skin damage.

Some quick tips to avoid this risk:

  • Provide non-latex disposable gloves to staff, and change gloves between clients
  • Provide hand cream to keep hands moisturised
  • Staff training on proper hand washing and drying technique
  • Check skin regularly for signs of damage

The use of some products in a hairdressing salon, including bleaches, colourings and oxidation hair dye products, can cause an allergic reaction which can result in burning, itching, blistering or swelling where the product has been applied.

Patch testing is an easy way of identifying whether the hair product will cause any sort of allergic reaction or are safe to use on the client. It’s important to do a patch test for any sort of colour treatments such as hair highlights, dyeing, and particularly if any product is coming in contact with the scalp or skin of your client.

How to avoid this risk:

  • Do a patch test up to 48 hours before using the product on your client
  • To perform a patch test, apply a small amount of the product to the client’s wrist or neck. The area should not be washed for 48 hours to check for a reaction
  • Train all staff in the use of dyes and patch testing techniques

In an industry focused on cutting and styling, it’s no surprise that blades and sharp instruments like scissors are a key hazard.

Cuts and grazes as a result of scissors or razors can happen to both staff and clients. And in addition to cuts, stabs and grazes, there’s additional risk from possible blood transmission from one person to another and risk of blood-borne infection.

To keep staff and customers safe:

  • Clean all sharp implements with sterilising liquid after each use
  • Change the sterilising liquid daily and follow manufacturer’s instructions
  • Keep a first-aid box stocked at all times
  • Introduce spot checks to make sure blades are being used and stored safely
  • Train staff in basic first aid or health and safety

As a hairdresser or barber, you’re on your feet all day. It might sound like a small hazard to your health, but you or your staff could suffer musculoskeletal injuries, for example back pain, neck or shoulder injuries and pain or discomfort in feet and legs, from standing for long periods of time. Another potential risk is inflammation of the veins, which could lead to varicose veins over time.

To help:

  • Take regular breaks – try to have a break area with comfortable chairs handy
  • Have an option to work while seated if possible. Try adjustable chairs or stools
  • Advise staff on the correct footwear. Comfortable shoes with lots of support are best for prolonged periods of standing

Lifting, pushing and pulling is often part and parcel of any type of occupation, from bricklayers to beauticians and from hairdressers to haberdashers. And according to the HSE, 18% of the most common workplace accidents were caused by handling, lifting or carrying in 2020-21.

The most common injuries associated with manual handling are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), including pain or injury to arms, legs and joints. Back and shoulder strains are very common too, as well as repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

Manual handling injuries can occur almost anywhere in the workplace, but heavy manual labour, awkward postures, repetitive movements of arms, legs and back or previous/existing injury can increase the risk. However, many manual handling type injuries can be caused by smaller tasks like packing, typing, cleaning, or moving supplies.

The best manual handling techniques are:

  1. Think before you lift
  2. Use a safe lifting position
  3. Get a good grip
  4. Keep the load close to your waist
  5. Don’t lift with your back
  6. Avoid twisting
  7. Look up
  8. Move smoothly
  9. Don’t lift more than necessary
  10. Put it down, then adjust

For a full rundown of the best manual handling practices, follow AXA’s guide to manual handling here.

How to protect your hairdressing business

No matter how careful you are, you can’t eliminate every hazard and accidents can always happen. That’s why business insurance from AXA can help protect you if things do go wrong.

At AXA, we give you the freedom to style your insurance to meet your needs. You can pick and choose covers and build an insurance policy that protects your business, your employees if you have any, and any specialist equipment you have.

The main covers for hairdressing businesses are:

Public liability insurance - which protects you, your staff and your customers from accidental injury that occurs as a result of your business practices

Employers’ liability insurance – which is a legal requirement for any business with employees and protects your business if your staff are injured or fall ill as a result of working for you

Buildings insurance – which covers your salon or premises in the result of property damage such as fire or flooding

Business contents insurance – which protects your salon’s contents and stock from damage or theft

Protect your hairdressing business today

Don’t let a bad hair day ruin your hard work – protect your business today with AXA. With our business insurance, you can tailor your cover to suit your hairdressing business, quickly and hassle-free.

Choose the covers and optional extras that are most suited to your needs, such as public liability insurance, employer’s liability and contents insurance.

All links are checked and valid at time of publishing, 30 September 2022.