From the Editors

New York City Considers Letter Grades for Salons and Spas

by Judy Lessin | October 21, 2014

How would you feel if after a salon inspection your score was posted in the salon’s front window in the form of a letter grade? This grading system which has worked so well to keep restaurants working hard to maintain sanitary conditions is under consideration for spas and salons in New York City.

Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., announced plans to introduced legislation in the City Council that would create a new system of letter grades for cosmetology businesses, including nail salons, spas, barber shops, beauty parlors, and other similar businesses throughout the city. The new system will be modeled after the current letter grading system used by the Department of Health to monitor restaurants and food service establishments.

“While most salon and spa owners operate clean, reputable establishments, some do not, and they are putting the health and safety of their customers at great risk,” said Diaz. “The proposals will go a long way towards ensuring that the people of this city have a clean and safe atmosphere to get their hair done, to get a manicure or pedicure, or any of the other practices typically found in spas and beauty establishments.”

In addition to creating a new letter grade and inspection system, Diaz’s proposal also calls for the creation of a “customer’s bill of rights,” which would be hung conspicuously in each establishment. Diaz also introduced a resolution calling on the New York State Division of Licensing Services, which provides licensing for cosmetology professionals, to expand its health and safety training options.

The proposal comes in response to numerous reports of health and sanitation issues arising from dirty salons and spas. A 2013 report by Sara A. Walsh, titled “Beyond the Polish: An Examination of Hazardous Conditions in Nail Salons and Potential Solutions for the Industry in New York City,” noted that unsanitary salons can lead to a variety of hazards, including staph or MRSA, hepatitis, fungus, and other infections. 

Public Advocate Letitia James has also released a report, “How Safe is Your Nail Salon?,” which outlined safety hazards facing both customers and employees in nail salons, such as air quality issues created by chemicals used during nail services, among other issues.

“The procedures used in many salons can almost be medical in nature, yet oversight of these businesses is very minimal,” said Diaz. “This new system will provide the consumer with necessary information they need to make informed choices about the safety of beauty salons, barbershops, spas, and other similar businesses.”

How do you feel about this proposal? Would you welcome a similar system in your town?

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