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OSHA Cites Beauty Salons for Formaldehyde Exposure From Hair Smoothing Products

Posted December 21, 2011

OSHA recently cited and fined two salons for failing to implement precautions to protect workers from exposure to formaldehyde when using certain hair smoothing products. OSHA indicated that salon owners who continue to use products that may contain or release formaldehyde must follow the requirements of OSHA's Formaldehyde and Hazard Communication Standards or be subject to penalties. According to OSHA, what is most troubling is that some of the hair smoothing products being used in the salons that have been cited are labeled at "formaldehyde free."

To date, in 2011 OSHA has issued citations for failing to protect workers from exposure to formaldehyde to 23 salon owners and beauty schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio; the salons were issued fines of up to $17,500.

OSHA has indicated that these violations included:

  • Failure to communicate the hazards of exposure of formaldehyde to employees.
  • Failure to provide personal protective equipment.
  • Failure to test air levels.

In one case, OSHA indicated that a hair stylist using a formaldehyde-based hair smoothing product was exposed to more than five times the allowable amount, with an actual exposure reading of 10.12 ppm. In another case, the exposure reading was 4.73 ppm. The maximum exposure limit for formaldehyde on an eight hour time-rated average is .75 ppm; the maximum short-term exposure limit is 2 ppm over 15 minutes.

OSHA has also issued citations against two Florida manufacturers and two Florida-based distributors of hair products containing formaldehyde for failing to protect their workers from possible formaldehyde exposure, as well as a failure to communicate the hazards of formaldehyde to customers through warnings on material safety data sheets.

Just as a funeral home is responsible for workers' exposure to formaldehyde during the preparation process, if a funeral home worker uses hair smoothing products containing formaldehyde when preparing the body of a deceased person, the requirements of the Formaldehyde and Hazard Communication Standards must be followed. OSHA is serious about enforcing these standards. For funeral homes, this means that, in addition to the usual embalming chemicals and products used in the preparation process, OSHA will scrutinize the use of hair smoothing products that may contain formaldehyde during an inspection

.