The Covering Beauty Blog

Everything you need to know about insurance for your beauty business.

What Happens When OSHA Inspects Your Business?

Posted February 5th, 2014 by Jeff Pulford

True Story as Told to Jeff Pulford

This is my story about how an OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Agency) inspection affected my salon.  It is not intended to criticize OSHA or seek sympathy for myself.  (Ignorance is not a defense for non-compliance of a law.)  Safety for our employees and our clients is a serious matter.  A publicized safety or health incident could severely damage our industry.  What I hope to achieve by telling my story is to wake up our industry so that we are not a targeted group by OSHA in the future.

The beauty business must protect itself from negative publicity that could occur if we had a serious illness if we had a serious illness or injury.  We deal with chemicals and sharp tools every day.  Our workers have the right to a safe workplace, to understand what is in the products they use at work and to know how to protect themselves from hazardous chemicals.  When stylists use hazardous products, it is the responsibility of the salon owner or employer to follow OSHA’s standards.

OSHA OSHA regulates workplace safety.  Although OSHA regulations do not include a section specifically for salons or spas, all employers are subject to the general regulation that requires a workplace to be free from known hazards.  In addition to this general regulation, several specific OSHA regulations may apply to your salon or spa depending on its operations.

inspector-at-workI learned about these regulations the hard way at 1pm April 10th, 2013.  That was the day an OSHA inspector walked into my business.  OSHA inspections can be conducted without advance notice.  An inspector may walk through you salon to document what they see, review records, monitor chemical exposure and check overall sanitation, health, and safety conditions.  The inspector had what she called a Formal Employee Complaint, a written complaint where OSHA must conduct an on-site visit.  My choice was to cooperate and let her inspect the facility or she would come back with a search warrant.  It seemed like the best thing to do was to just let her do her inspection.

The issue that triggered the inspection was a written complaint from a current or past employee about the fumes given off from the solvent we used to clean the salon.  The inspector asked for a tour of the work areas, a copy of all hazardous chemicals, Personal Protection Equipment plan and proof of employee training.  She informed me that although she was there because of the one specific complaint, she had the right to cite me up to $7500 for any other violations she found.

The difficult thing about that day was that for 31 years of business, I always took pride in doing things the right way.  I complied with the best of my knowledge to any federal or state regulations.  In all of my education and reading of industry publications, I never learned anything about OSHA.  I only heard of OSHA when there was an accident at a large company.  What I didn’t know that day was that I was about to learn the hard way about OSHA regulations.


MSDSThe first thing the inspector wanted to see was a copy of my Hazard Communication and a list of MSDS sheets for all of our chemicals.  I had no idea what a Hazard Communication was at the time.  I had seen MSDS sheets from some of my distributors, but had no idea what to do with them.  I was caught off guard and totally unprepared.

Personal Protection Equipment Plan:

When we went to the supply room the inspector wanted to see my workplace hazard assessment for salon employees handling solvents and other chemicals.  The hazard assessment would evaluate the need for personal protective equipment (PPE), including appropriate gloves, eye protection, etc. while handling these materials.  Although we always provided gloves to the employees, I had no idea what a workplace assessment was.

The inspector then wanted to see the process we use for hair & nail services.  She wanted to monitor air quality while the staff was conducting these services.  While they were doing this she informed me that she had the right to speak to any and all of my employees.  That process consumed 4 hours of my employee’s time, which I was responsible to pay their wages at that time.

After all the drama of the inspection day it took three months before I heard back from OSHA.  I received a certified letter informing me that I was being cited for the following citations:

Citation 1:

The employer had not completed a Workplace Hazard Assessment for salon employees banding and pouring solvents and other chemicals.

Citation 2:

Employer supplied Microflex Ultraderm examining gloves for salon employees cleaning with solvents and using other chemicals.  These gloves are not rated as chemically resistant and do not maintain structural integrity under conditions of use.

Citation 3:

The employer did not have a written Hazard Communication Program for salon employees who were exposed to various chemicals, on site.

Citation 4:

Salon employees had not been trained on the requirements of the Hazard Communication or on the hazards associated with the use of those chemicals used in the salon.

The fines incurred for these citations totaled $9000.  I had 14 days to appeal the fines and meet with the regional director for OSHA.  I was advised to always appeal the fines.  In most cases the fines will be reduced.

osha-think-safety-firstThe fines were reduced in half to $4500 after meeting with the regional director.  In addition he required me to have an onsite safety consultation with California Occupational Safety and Health.  This is a free program to help businesses comply with OSHA regulations.  They helped me to abate all the violations that I was cited for and helped with other compliance issues.

Each state has a free onsite consultation program.  You can contact these agencies through the or by calling your local OSHA office.  I would highly recommend getting help from the onsite consultation program.  In my case I would not have been able to set up my program without their help.  This will help to make sure your program is set up correctly and lessen the chances of costly fines.  They will assist in setting up your safety program and identify any safety violations before you incur any violations.


The best place to start is at the OSHA website, .  Search for “Compliance Assistance Quick Start” and you will get an overview of 7 steps you will need to follow.  This will give you a great start to developing your OSHA plan.  This is a great place to start to learn what you need to do.

4 Responses to “What Happens When OSHA Inspects Your Business?”

  1. Jenny Vance says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am teaching a class on establishment requirements and I was wondering if I could share your story with my class participants. Thanks, Jenny

  2. kim russell says:

    do you know about other regulations for salons? I have noticed a new trend in large corporate salons, mostly owned by regis,to remove mats from the hair stations. Isn’t this an osha violation?

  3. Anonymous says:

    “I learned about these regulations the hard way”, but from what I understand all nail programs address OSHA and how we are suppose to follow their guidelines. A nail salon or any other business should always be ready for an inspection. I don’t think claiming ignorance on this makes sense or is completely honest.

    Stories like what you’ve shared will definitely help others though – to know that it can happen to them and that claiming ignorance or thinking they won’t get inspected isn’t responsible for themselves or their employees. Saying safety matters and then actually demonstrating it are two different things.

    All beauty service businesses know about OSHA or at least about the need to be proactive with safety. Its their responsibility to learn more about it so they can protect the public, their employees, and their business.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

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