Safe Work Practices during COVID-19 (and Beyond)
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Safety mattered long before COVID-19 became part of our everyday vocabulary. But as salons, spas, and barbershops journey through the various reopening phases in their respective states, now is an excellent time to revisit safe work practices and infection control measures.
But here's the thing: A safety-first approach at all times (not just during the pandemic) makes smart business sense for several reasons:
- A safety-first approach protects your professional license.
You spent countless hours in beauty school on safety and sanitation training for a reason, right? State Boards take customer complaints concerning health and safety violations seriously, and they will take action against individuals and businesses that don't adhere to protocols—whether it's now or post-pandemic.
- A safety-first approach inspires client loyalty.
Clients who have an enjoyable experience in a safe and clean environment will keep coming back (and they'll tell others about you, too).
- A safety-first approach will boost your brand.
Thanks to online review platforms like Yelp, word will get around quickly if you or your establishment serves up an unsafe or unclean environment. Keep in mind that it's incredibly hard to recover from negative reviews that consistently cite the same grievances about your business. On the flip side, positive reviews that speak about your expertise and commitment to safety and cleanliness will help attract new clients.
- A safety-first approach is the right thing to do because it protects everyone's well-being.
It's the right thing to do during COVID-19. But it's also the right thing to do, period.
The question is, have you thought of everything you should be doing to keep people safe now—and in the future?
You're likely already juggling so much due to the pandemic, which is why we created this comprehensive checklist. Use it as your guide to make sure you and your team members are doing everything humanly possible to keep people safe at all times.
General Cleaning and Disinfecting Checklist
The following are some basic infection control guidelines as well as additional measures you can take to ensure everyone's safety during a pandemic or other public health crisis.
In addition to following the checklist below, continue to comply with your local regulatory agencies' laws and any specific procedures they put forth for those working with clients in a salon, spa, or barbershop.
Transmission is the necessary first step in getting sick. So if you prevent transmission, you prevent illness. Follow the strategies below to do exactly that.
- Build in more time between client appointments. This way, you won't be rushed when "turning over" the room/station before the next client arrives. You'll have plenty of time to properly disinfect and tidy up the space.
- Maintain social distancing by staying six feet apart from other clients and staff. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains that social distancing remains one of the most effective ways to limit the spread of COVID-19. Consider staggered shifts or use every other station to increase the physical distance between yourself and your client and others.
- Prescreen clients during appointment confirmation by asking them the following questions:
Reschedule appointments if there is any concern over their responses.
- Do you have a fever, shortness of breath, or a cough?
- Have you noticed any recent changes in your sense of smell or taste?
- Have you been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19?
- Use touchless thermometers if your state recommends administering on-site temperature checks. Administer tests on a nondiscriminatory basis. Keep all screening results confidential per HIPPA.
- Remove all clutter from the common areas that the public has access to. This includes magazines, free-standing décor, and extraneous display cases that promote touching (e.g., jewelry or testers).
- Send receipts and appointment reminders via email or text. This eliminates the need to swap paper and inadvertently have physical contact. It's also better for the environment.
- Keep disinfectant wipes near touchscreens and tablets used for credit card purchases. Consider having customers insert or swipe the credit card and using their own pen to sign. Encourage digital pay, pre-paying, or set up a self- checkout station.
- Encourage clients to limit personal items brought into the salon. Also, allow the client to manage these items once on the premises (e.g., coats, magazines, purses).
- Find an alternative to shaking hands with every customer. A head nod, elbow bump, or welcoming smile will work.
- Wear a mask and face shield or goggles (if available) to prevent spreading respiratory droplets through coughing, sneezing, or even talking. Put on and take off masks with clean hands in order to prevent cross-contamination. Only touch the strings and not the front of the mask.
- Leave a box of gloves at the front desk should your clients feel more comfortable wearing them during their visit. Make sure you have a clearly marked receptacle where clients can throw away used gloves.
- Strategically place hand sanitizer and tissues around the salon, spa, or barbershop for easy access. Focus on high-traffic, high-touch areas.
- Install automatic, no-touch hand soap dispensers and touchless trash cans at washing stations. Check soap levels regularly. Since more people are washing their hands more often, you'll need to refill more often as well.
- Use disposable towels, especially in restrooms. Empty trash cans regularly—you don't want them overflowing.
- Place a printable card stating "This station has been disinfected!" on the client's chair or treatment table before they arrive. This will provide clients with added peace of mind, but it's also an excellent way to remind yourself and/or your staff that the area has been disinfected.
BONUS TIP: A good way to communicate to clientele that you take transmission prevention seriously is by showcasing your infection control certificate. Clients will be able to see you're certified and that you're committed to providing a safe environment for them and your staff.
Not certified yet? Enroll in Milady's two-hour online course: Practical Infection Control Certification.
Regular and thorough hand washing remains one of the most important steps everyone can take to limit the spread of COVID-19 (as well as other germs).
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after contact with the client. Hand washing in front of clients inspires confidence.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water before setting up and touching clean items. Remember to wash for at least 20 seconds (the equivalent of two rounds of "Happy Birthday").
- Don't worry about only washing with antibacterial soap. COVID-19 is a virus, so any soap will get the job done!
Wearing gloves prevents contamination and protects hands from strong chemicals.
- Wear gloves during every service you provide. But always refer to your state's regulatory agencies for the latest requirements.
- Use vinyl or nitrile gloves, not latex. Latex breaks down easily and may cause allergic reactions in some clients (and professionals).
- Change into a new set of gloves before every client and when needed during a service to avoid cross-contamination. Remember, gloves are single-use equipment.
- Do not put contaminated hands or gloves into clean containers. Instead, change into clean gloves or use disinfected tongs to open and reach into a drawer if more supplies are needed.
Understanding Disinfectants and Safety
Disinfectants are made up of chemicals, and chemicals are serious business. A thorough understanding of how to use disinfectants correctly will go a long way in keeping everyone safe.
- Get up to speed on effective disinfectants. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website. Enter a search on the home page for EPA-registered disinfectants to find a list of approved disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Be able to find the following on any disinfectant label:
- The list of pathogens against which it is effective. This list should include HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), HBV (hepatitis B virus), and MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus). If pseudomonas aeruginosa is included, the disinfectant will kill other lesser bacteria. Note: SARS-CoV-2 might not appear yet on the label, but look to see if human coronavirus is listed as a target pathogen.
- EPA registration number.
- Mixing and changing instructions.
- The words virucidal, bactericidal, and fungicidal. Virucidal means it's capable of destroying viruses. Bactericidal means it's capable of destroying bacteria. Fungicidal means it's capable of destroying molds and fungi.
- Do not use any disinfecting product in a way that's contrary to the use indicated on its label.
- Use disinfectants only on clean, hard, nonporous surfaces.
- Wear gloves and safety glasses when disinfecting.
- Follow the directions and specified contact times for all EPA-registered disinfectants, even those sprayed on large surfaces. Disinfectants are federally regulated chemical products that destroy most bacteria (excluding spores), fungi, and viruses on surfaces.
- Look for and adhere to the contact time when using a spray, wipe, or aerosol disinfectant to ensure that all pathogens on the label are being effectively destroyed.
- Carefully apply disinfectant to pre-cleaned large surfaces, such as countertops, or use a disinfectant spray and allow it to remain on the surface for 10 minutes, unless state regulations say differently.
- Follow the label instructions for mixing, contact time, and the type of surface the disinfecting product can be used on. You are not complying with federal law if you do otherwise.
- Look for disinfection instructions on the label of any bleach you use. You need to make sure that the bleach is actually disinfecting. Chlorine bleach is the only bleach that disinfects.
- Keep an item submerged in disinfectant for 10 minutes unless the product label specifies differently. Reminder: If the product label calls for "complete immersion," immerse the entire implement in disinfectant.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions for mixing, using, and disposing of disinfectants.
- Add disinfectant to water when diluting (rather than adding water to a disinfectant) to prevent foaming, which can result in an incorrect mixing ratio.
- Strictly follow the manufacturer's directions regarding when to replace disinfectant solution. This will likely involve replacing disinfectant solution at least every day—and more often if the solution becomes soiled or contaminated.
- Keep a logbook of all cleaning, disinfecting, equipment usage, testing, and maintenance. Make sure anyone else responsible for disinfecting and cleaning records everything in this logbook as well.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
People sometimes confuse cleaning with disinfecting, but these are two separate actions, and both are important.
- Cleaning is a mechanical process using soap and water or detergent and water to remove all visible dirt, debris, and many disease-causing germs from tools, implements, and equipment.
- Disinfecting involves the use of a chemical to destroy most, but not necessarily all, harmful organisms on environmental surfaces.
Bottom line: First, you clean. Then, you disinfect with an appropriate EPA-registered disinfectant.
- Use one of these three ways to clean your tools and implements:
- Wash with soap and warm water and then scrub with a clean and properly disinfected nail brush.
- Use an ultrasonic unit.
- Use a chemical cleaner.
- After cleaning, place the used tools into an EPA-registered disinfectant solution that is designated to kill all microbes.
- Clean and disinfect anything that could come into contact with germs. This includes chairs, treatment tables, equipment, beds, sinks, armrests, counters, phones, floor mats, and doorknobs. Don't forget items in the restrooms, front desk, phones, waiting rooms, consultation areas, treatment rooms, and any other common areas.
- Clean and disinfect the treatment table and work area.
- Wipe down all equipment with an EPA-approved disinfectant.
- Clean all containers and wipe off dirty product containers with a disinfectant.
- Clean, dry, and place all multi-use items into a wet disinfectant. Remember, multi-use items can be cleaned, disinfected, and used on more than one person.
- Throw away disposable drapes and other disposable items.
- Place tools in a disinfectant holding tray.
- Discard any used disposables into a covered trash container.
Setting Up Between Clients
Earlier, we mentioned building in more time between client appointments. Here's how to maximize that time.
- Have new clean items at the ready for every service.
- Place supplies on a clean towel (paper or cloth) on your clean and disinfected workstation.
- Take out only what is needed for each service.
- Put out supplies in the order to be used, lined up neatly, and if any supplies or products are uncovered, cover with another towel until you are ready to use them.
- Keep clean supplies separate from used ones.
- Change table linens before and after every client.
- Keep applicators, strips, gauze, and cotton supplies in covered containers when not in use.
- Make sure you use clean towels, linens, and capes for each client.
- Be sure that towels, linens, and capes are thoroughly dried before storing or using them again.
How you prep laundry during the time of COVID-19 can also affect client safety. Again, the following are excellent strategies to follow for the long term.
- In order to avoid cross-contamination, roll the used side of linens and sheets inward so the dirty side is inside the laundry bundle. This also helps keep product and hair off the floor and saves cleaning time.
- Do not let linens or other items touch your clothing before or after use.
- Place all soiled laundry linens (towels and sheets) in a covered receptacle.
Communicating Safety Protocols to Your Clientele
If you're doing everything outlined above, congrats! You're well on your way to creating a safe environment for clients and staff. Now, you need to make sure you communicate your efforts to the public so that they will feel confident visiting your establishment.
- Post your infection control certificate in a prominent area that all clients pass through. Again, this serves as an important visual reminder. You can also snap a picture of it and share it on social media. Don't have your certificate yet? No problem. Enroll in Milady's two-hour online course now.
- Create a COVID-19 informational page on your website. Call it something like "Our Response to COVID-19." (People know to look for these pages on business websites.) The link should be visible in the main website navigation (or in the area just above the main nav). On the page, outline the various safety protocols you and your staff are following. You can use the above checklist as a rough guide, but you don't need to get into the same level of detail. The goal is to reinforce that your business is following all safety guidelines required by our industry and by law.
- Update your COVID-19 informational web page, as needed. Whenever you update the page, update the publish date as well. Simply put a line in italics at the beginning that says, "This page was updated on MONTH DAY YEAR." This way, people know it's current and that you're on top of things.
- Mention the COVID-19 page on your recorded phone greeting (if applicable) so people can learn more.
- Update appointment reminders and include a link to the COVID-19 web page. Say something like, "Click here to learn how we're keeping all of our clients safe."
- Use text messaging to get the word out. If you have a texting application that you use to communicate with clients, text the link to your COVID-19 web page with a message, such as "Here's our approach to keeping our clients safe." This is especially important when welcoming new clients to your business.
- Add the COVID-19 web page link to your email signature. Have staff members do it in their signatures as well.
- Share regular reminders via social media regarding the steps you and your staff are taking to create a safe environment for guests. You can have fun and levity with this. For example, snap a pic of smiling staff members gloved and masked and post to places like Instagram and Facebook with a simple caption: "We're always prepared to serve you safely."
Bottom line: Don't mention safety only once or twice. Safe work practices matter all the time, but especially during this era of heightened awareness due to the pandemic.
Conducting Regular Staff Training on Safety
If you recently reopened, you probably conducted staff training to remind everyone of the correct infection control measures and safe work practices. Regular staff trainings will remain important for the next six to twelve months. But even after the pandemic is officially over, you should consider holding safety refreshers for staff. Think twice a year, or even quarterly, if you can swing it.
Well, these refreshers are an excellent way to clarify protocols, provide updates (for example, new CDC guidelines), address questions, and make sure newer staff is up to speed and that veteran staff doesn't grow complacent.
As we stated at the beginning, safety is something that should continue long after the pandemic is officially declared over. Bookmark this article and use it as your go-to resource now and in the future.