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Tag ‘health and safety’

“Barmy EU plans for hair salons” as the Sun says? Or hair salons themselves asking for EU legislation?

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Here we respond point by point to the Sun’s article from 28 October 2012, headlined: “Hairdressers are battling barmy EU plans to outlaw high-heels and jewellery at work”

The “plans” were put forward not by the “barmy EU” but by hairdressers and salon owners from across Europe who have on their own initiative reached an agreement and asked the European Commission to write this into EU law, with rules covering some issues and guidance covering others. The Commission has not yet decided whether to take this forward  – if it does, Member States would then need to agree by a large majority or the legislation would not take effect anyway.

 The European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology says “Hairdressers suffer from musculoskeletal pains (hands, wrists, leg swellings, etc.) due to long working hours in a standing position. They are also exposed to many chemical agents contained in shampoos, dying agents, creams, sprays, etc. that daily injure their hands or respiratory tracts. As most hairdressers are female workers, the products have also an incidence on pregnancies.”

Stylists could be forced to wear non-slip soles and leave “unhygienic” watches and rings at home.
As some hairdressers responding to the Sun piece pointed out, this is good practice that most follow already. A slip with scissors or a razor in hand could cause serious injury. This is obvious rather than “barmy”.

They also face having to cream and wash their hands several times a day.
Again as hairdressers responding to the Sun piece pointed out, they do this anyway. In the UK this is based on clear guidance from the Health and Safety Executive, which warns “This information will help employers (including the self-employed and franchisees) comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002(COSHH), as amended, to control exposure and protect workers’ health.” and

Gossip with clients will be compulsory for “mental wellbeing”, while owners must ensure a happy atmosphere to avoid “emotional collapses”.
If there were anything in the salon owners’ and hairdressers’ proposals that said gossip should be compulsory, this might indeed be seen as barmy. But there is not. There is a reference to “social dialogue” – if the Sun had checked this story with us before publication, we could have explained that this term means dialogue between employers and workers over pay and conditions, etc. Neither is there any reference to a happy atmosphere: this appears to be a distortion of a part of the agreement referring to avoiding overloading workers.

Bosses would also have to limit the number of cuts stylists do in a day.
They already do in practice under EU and UK rules and probably would do anyway even if no such rules existed, as most people would probably prefer not to pay good money to have their hair cut by someone who has been on their feet for 12 hours.

European salon chiefs and a stylists’ union persuaded the European Commission to draft a directive to be binding on all 27 states, including Britain.
No, they did not. The Commission has not made a proposal or decided whether or not to do so – that decision will be made on the basis of a full impact assessment. And if the EC does make a proposal, it would become law only if a large majority of national Ministers agree. The European Commission cannot just hand down rules, on hairdressing or anything else.

UK hairdressers say it will cost £75million a year and increase the cost of having a hair-do.
The European hairdressing industry (Coiffure EU) argues that there will be substantial savings if the proposals are implemented – salon owners say that is why they themselves developed and signed up to these rules. Savings come from reduced sick leave of hairdressers and from reduced staff turnover/retraining. According to Dr. Shengli Niu, Senior Occupational Health specialist at the International Labour Organisation, “20% of hair stylists have to leave their jobs because of work-related conditions.”

The cost of occupational skin diseases in loss of productivity across all sectors exceeds €5bn every year in the EU, according to latest calculations. With the hairdressing profession carrying a higher risk than any other line of work.

Eileen Lawson, of the National Hairdressers’ Federation, said: “The EU’s using its largest hammer to hit the smallest nut.
Again, the EU is not proposing this, hairdressers and their employers are….the European Commission has not decided whether to take it forward.

“When money is tight and jobs so important the last thing we need is more expensive bureaucracy.”

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: “No one has to tell hairdressers the benefits of hand cream or dictate how they dress.
The Health and Safety Executive  provides detailed advice on hand care and on appropriate work clothing in the UK…

“Legislation will lead to higher costs and bigger bills for customers.”
The EC will only take the proposal forward if an impact assessment shows benefits outweigh costs and in particular that codifying the agreement in EU law would not hold back small businesses.

See also:

In a jam over non-existent EU rules

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Recent media coverage on reusing jars for homemade jams for sale at charity events certainly fired up the imagination of the headline writers: “EU elf ‘n safety tsars ban jam sales at fetes” and “anger spreads over EU fines threat for reusing old jam jars”, “EU fine for homemade jam makers”. This is all completely untrue. There are no EU laws, new or old, which ban re-using old jam jars for fetes. The EU also has no powers to fine people.

There is indeed a body of EU food safety and hygiene legislation – notably so that the UK and other countries can be confident that food imported from or bought elsewhere in the EU is safe and of high quality. But these rules apply only to business operators and not to those preparing food for charity events such as church fetes or school bazaars.

What is more, the rules do not anyway ban re-using clean jam jars:  the European  Commission is not aware of any risk from chemicals related to this re-use.

The Daily Telegraph to its credit reported this properly on 7 October, saying that the Church of England had issued guidance and quoting the UK Food Safety Authority explaining that the interpretation of the regulations was the responsibility of local authorities, who would decide what constituted a “food business” and adding that “an occasional event, like a fund-raiser… would probably not be considered to be a food business.”

The Express then span this into a ridiculous story about “meddling Brussels bureaucrats”. The Mail did at least mention that the FSA had said enforcement was down to individual local authorities…but left this until paragraph 7 of a story misleadingly headlined “Anger spreads over EU fines threat for reusing old jam jars.” The Telegraph then had another piece – at least it was an intentionally funny one – blaming EU Directives after all.

While BBC Radio 4 You and Yours covered the story sensibly, BBC Breakfast ran an item that assumed wrongly that the EU has banned jam jars.

None of the media who produced these seriously misleading stories contacted the European Commission first.

More misleading grist to the EU-bashing mill……

“Hair Hitlers” or simply employers and trade unions working together to improve health and safety for workers in the hairdressing sector?

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Recent press coverage on “EU’s high heel ban for salon staff” and “Barmy EU to ban stylist’s ring & heels” are misleading and reports of a new health and safety directive are untrue.

What lies behind the “hair-raising” headlines is an own initiative by salon owners and hairdressers to help better protect the health and safety of all those working in the industry in the EU.

The draft agreement negotiated by Coiffure EU and UNI Europa builds upon existing national best practices and existing regulations in member states. Such as the current HSE guidelines (pdf) on the provision of gloves. It will mean little change for those hairdressers – salon owners and workers – who already follow the law and health and safety guidance.

Scientific evidence shows hairdressers are exposed to a high risk of occupational disease, such as muscular-skeletal disorders and skin diseases in particular. Failure to adequately address health risks lead to increased absenteeism and early retirement from the profession.

The cost of occupational skin diseases in loss of productivity across all sectors exceeds €5bn every year in the EU, according to latest calculations. With the hairdressing profession carrying the highest risk. Medical Reference document (pdf)

Before the agreement becomes law it needs to be approved by the European Commission with the final decision being made by EU government ministers, including the UK, at the Council. The European Parliament will be informed but does not debate the proposal.

See also scientific evidence provided by European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.


Friday, August 5th, 2005


Wealth and Safety
THE SUN today exposes the “Health and Safety” madness which is taking over Britain…Dogs have fallen foul of the PC brigade in Bradford, West Yorks, where city officials banned butchers from selling dog bones. Council bureaucrats warned butcher John Smith he faced losing his licence if he carried on selling them. The edict was based on a new EU regulation for food storage…

Zealous officials ripped out a playground swing in Great Somerford, Wilts, because it was positioned too high according to new EU regulations…

Recently it emerged that new EU laws were set to force trapeze artists and tightrope walkers to wear safety helmets while performing. Charles O’Brine, from Fossett’s Circus, said: “Can you imagine a flying trapeze artist with a hard hat on?” The measure was due to be introduced under regulations affecting people working at great heights…

In Scotland, bagpipes recently faced the axe under rules to slash noise pollution. The EU proposal was intended to ban noises louder than 87 decibels…Officials have also targeted window cleaners and builders, claiming an EU directive required ladders to be securely anchored to the ground for safety reasons. The proposal meant that labourers would be banned from climbing a ladder while a mate held it steady.
(The Sun, 2 August 2005)

The Sun’s initiative to, in its own words, “Make PC Lunacy History”, would stand a greater chance of succeeding if the examples it uses of “‘Health and Safety’ madness” were not complete nonsense.

Dog owners can still pick up a bone at the butchers. After the spread of mad cow disease, European health ministers took measures to prevent further outbreaks. Strict rules were introduced on the safe and traceable disposal of animal by-products (a major source of the disease’s outbreak), outlawing meat unsafe for human consumption from entering the food chain. Butchers can only sell products that are suitable for humans to eat – the rest must be classified as waste. The rules do not stop a butcher supplying bones to individual dog owners for their pet’s consumption, provided the bone had not already been thrown away, i.e. classified as waste.

The swings story is not even correct in a roundabout sort of way. There are simply no EU regulations governing the height of playground equipment. The origin of this myth may have come from European Standard 1176-5, drawn up by the European Committee for Standardisation. This is a non-EU body made up of standards institutions from 28 countries, including the British Standards Institution. It sets guidelines for products in order to improve consumer safety, but these guidelines are entirely voluntary.  

Also on the subject of height, the EU is not “set to force trapeze artists and tightrope walkers to wear safety helmets while performing”, nor will builders be barred from holding a ladder steady for a mate. Between 2003-2004, 67 people died in the UK as a result of a fall in the workplace. The new laws on working at height aim to protect workers by improving the safety equipment at their disposal, but it is up to national authorities – in the UK’s case the Health and Safety Executive – to devise the implementing measures. It would be up to the HSE to make trapeze artists don hard hats (though how that would protect them from a fall so high is anybody’s guess) and ban builders from holding ladders. So far, it has not felt inclined to take these steps.

As for banning bagpipes, Scots can rest assured that their favourite musical instrument is not under threat from EU proposals on noise pollution. While new measures will come into force next year, they are designed primarily for those who work with loud machinery for a sustained period – more than 87 decibels for eight hours in a row. The law, voted on by ministers and MEPs (including those from the UK), will from 2008 cover the entertainment industry, but will apply only to workers rather than audiences.

If, in the highly unlikely event a bagpipe player is hired to play continuously for eight hours, and the noise created averaged more than 87 decibels, the employer would be obliged to carry out a risk assessment to see where changes can be made – tinkering with the acoustics in a hall to reduce echoes, for example. If that fails, personal protection such as earmuffs will need to be considered, but only as a last resort. Banning musical instruments is not an option. Guarding against hearing loss and stress, which sustained exposure to loud noise has been proven to cause, is the only thing in the pipeline here.

Running battle over fire exit rules

Sunday, December 20th, 1998

Under EC directive 92/58 it will be a criminal offence to display any sign reading ‘Fire Exit’, unless the design also carries a ‘Europictogram’ of a running man.
Sunday Telegraph, Sunday, 20 December 1998, p16)

The differences between the safety and health signs currently used in the workplace can lead to uncertainty and confusion. This may become more widespread as more people choose to work in other European countries. The use of standardised signs in the workplace will in general help reduce the hazards which may arise through linguistic and cultural differences. Firms were given 18 months to introduce the changes.

EC in the UK

Check the EC Representation in the UK website

Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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