Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

Health Hazards in Nail Salons

Health Hazards in Nail Salons - Photo Credit: iStock-171378559 | Copyright: svetikd
Health Hazards in Nail Salons Menu


Nail Salons - Wage and Hour

Nail Salon
Worker Rights

Wage and Hour Division

Flier | Card

What is the difference between an Employee and an Independent Contractor for purposes of the Occupational Safety and Health Act?

  • It doesn’t matter how an individual is labeled by the salon owner. Instead, courts and agencies will look at a list of factors to determine whether you are an employee or independent contractor.
  • For example, if you: rent a station at a salon; purchase your own supplies and tools; have your own customers and set your own schedule and appointments; set your own rate and are paid by customers directly; and have your own business license, you may be more likely to be considered an independent contractor.
  • However, if: the owner sets the work schedule; you are paid by the hour; the owner or receptionist makes the appointments for all workers; you do not rent the space; the owner sets the rates paid by customers; and you use the owner's tools and equipment, you may be more likely to be considered an employee.

Why does it matter?

  • Employers must provide protection against workplace hazards for their employees; independent contractors are responsible for their own occupational health and safety protection. Employees also have rights to a minimum wage, workers' compensation, and other benefits. Independent contractors do not.
  • Just because a salon owner tells you that you are an independent contractor, it does not mean that you are one. And, just because an owner gives you an IRS form 1099 instead of a W-2 does not mean that you are an independent contractor. Salons sometimes misclassify the employment status of their workers to bypass taking protective safety and health measures and also to deny benefits. That is why it is important for you to know the difference between what constitutes an employee and an independent contractor. If you need help, you can contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Nail salons are mostly small businesses that employ or contract with trained professionals to provide clients with nail services including, but not limited to, nail filing and polishing, artificial nail application, and other hand- and foot-care treatments.

Nail technicians working in salons across the United States face possible health hazards every day. Workers exposed to chemicals found in glues, polishes, removers, emollients and other salon products may experience negative health effects such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses, skin disorders (e.g. allergic contact dermatitis), liver disease, reproductive loss, and cancer. Additionally, workers often endure muscle strains from awkward positions or repetitive motions; and have a high risk for infection from contact with client skin, nails, or blood.

Information on nail salon hazards and preventing illness and injury is also available for workers in OSHA's publication "Stay Healthy and Safe While Giving Manicures and Pedicures: A Guide for Nail Salon Workers" (EPUB | MOBI)

This publication is also available in:

A flier and wallet card including information on worker rights and health effects are available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA and Wage and Hour Division.

This web page gives important information about these hazards and the steps that nail salon workers and employers can take to prevent injuries and illnesses.

Chemicals Used in Nail Salons

Muscle Strains from Awkward Body Positions and Repetitive Work

Preventing Disease

Nail polishes, glues, and other products used in nail salons may contain the following chemicals, among others:

  • Toluene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Dibutyl Phthalate
  • Methacrylate compounds

Without taking the correct safety precautions each day, these chemicals can cause breathing problems; red, irritated eyes; dry, cracked skin; and other health problems. More...

Working in certain positions or repeating the same motion puts stress on a worker's body and can cause aches and pains. These hazards are often called "ergonomic" hazards.

Aches and pains can be caused by bending over a work table for a long period of time; resting hands, wrists, forearms and/or elbows against hard surfaces or sharp edges of work tables; and using repetitive movements like filing and buffing nails. More...

Nail salon workers can be exposed to biological hazards if they come into contact with infected skin, nails, or blood from a co-worker or client.

Diseases that can result from exposure to infected blood include hepatitis and AIDS. Nail salon workers can also get fungal infections, such as athlete's foot, from clients. More...

Workers' Rights

Workers have the right to:

  • Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
  • Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
  • Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.

For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.

How to Contact OSHA

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to help ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.

Nail Salons - Wage and Hour

Nail Salon
Worker Rights

Wage and Hour Division

Flier | Card

1Toxic Beauty No More: Health and Safety of Vietnamese Nail Salon Workers in Southern California. California Health Nail Salon Collaborative, (May 2011).

2The website was adapted from Stay Healthy and Safe While Giving Manicures and Pedicures: A Guide for Nail Salon Workers, which was developed by the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP), University of California, Berkeley and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.

Photos were provided by the Asian Law Caucus and Street Level Health Project

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