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Hazardous chemical exposure in nail salons

What is the potential risk?

Workers in nail salons may be exposed to a number of chemicals, including formaldehyde, toluene, methacrylate compounds, and dibutyl phthalate. These chemicals can be found in products commonly used in nail salons. Without proper ventilation and personal protective equipment, workers may be exposed to levels that can put them at risk of adverse health effects.

Workers may inhale chemical vapours or dust during the application of products such as nail polishes, glues, acrylic nails, and disinfectants. Long-term exposure to chemicals used in nail salons has been associated with reproductive effects, damage to the nervous system, liver and kidney failure, and cancer. Exposed workers may also experience skin, eye, or respiratory irritation.

A small number of studies have documented high levels of hazardous chemicals in some nail salons.

Workers at risk may include nail technicians and others who work in nail salons, such as receptionists.

Which industries may be at risk?

  • Beauty parlours
  • Hair styling services
  • Esthetic services
  • Nail salons
  • Spas

How can I reduce the risk in my workplace?

As an employer, you need to know if there is the potential for the risk identified in this advisory to be present in your workplace. It’s your responsibility to regularly inspect your workplace, and to ensure that your safety procedures and practices control the risk. The following information highlights some of the sections of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation and Guidelines that are most relevant to this risk.

The Regulation states that if hazardous products are used in the workplace, the employer, in consultation with the joint occupational health and safety committee or health and safety representative, must establish and maintain an effective WHMIS program, as part of the overall workplace health and safety program. This WHMIS program must:

  1. address applicable WHMIS requirements, including education and training
  2. be reviewed at least annually, or more frequently if required by a change in work conditions or available hazard information
  3. provide for the periodic evaluation of the knowledge of workers using suitable means, such as written tests and practical demonstrations

Additional requirements under Part 5 of the Regulation are also applicable to reducing exposure to this risk.

Publication Date: Jan 2016 Asset type: Risk Advisory Reference: RA 2016-05