As a working nail technician, you are potentially exposed to one or more chemicals every day of your life at home and at work. There are estimated 575,000 chemical products in existence, and hundreds of new ones are introduced annually. Chemical exposure may cause or contribute to many serious health problems. Some chemicals also have the potential to cause fires, explosions, and other serious accidents. Should this frighten you? Not necessarily. Manufacturers use many of these chemicals to provide the quality and reliable results you expect from these professional products. It is important for you to understand as much as possible about the chemicals you work with on a daily basis in order to minimize the potential for accidents and injury at work.

Hazard Communication Standard

Because of the seriousness of the safety and health concerns about working with chemicals, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a series of regulations called the “Hazard Communication Standard.” The basic goal of this standard is to reduce the incidence of chemical-related work-place illnesses and injuries. When materials used in the salon contain potentially hazardous chemicals, the standard requires employers to inform employees of their written Hazard Communication Program, which must include:

  • A written list of all hazardous chemicals used in the workplace.
  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each hazardous chemical available to employees.
  • Properly labeled containers of hazardous chemicals
  • A training and information program for employees


Whoever you buy your products from-the manufacturer, distributor, or supplier-must provide you with an MSDS the first time you purchase a hazardous chemical or a product containing a hazardous chemical. MSDS contain important information about the chemicals contained in a product. If you receive a product without an MSDS, it is your responsibility to request an MSDS from the supplier or manufacturer as soon as possible. Each MSDS must be in English and include:

  • Information regarding the specific chemical identity of the hazardous chemical (s) involved and the common names.
  • Information on the physical and chemical characteristics of the hazardous chemical
  • Known acute and chronic health effects and related health information
  • Exposure limits
  • Whether the chemical is considered to be a carcinogen
  • Precautionary measures you should take when working with the product
  • Emergency and first-aid procedures
  • Identification of the entity responsible for preparing the MSDS
  • The date the MSDS was prepared

You must have a separate MSDS for each hazardous chemical and product used in your salon, and a copy must be readily accessible to all employees.

Reading and Using the MSDS

Certain information is required to be listed on an MSDS. Salon owners and employers should pay particular attention to the following items on the MSDS form:

  • Emergency Telephone Numbers should be posted near your telephone to call for information on the product and emergency instructions.
  • CAS Numbers are unique for each hazardous chemical and should also be recorded with the chemical names alongside the emergency telephone numbers.
  • Date Prepared and Revised should be within 5 years. Call the manufacturer to be sure you have the most recent MSDS.
  • Reactivity Hazard Data provides information on product stability, incompatibility, and conditions to avoid in use and storage.
  • Health Hazard Data tells how the chemical can enter your body, signs and symptoms of exposure, and emergency first aid procedures.
  • Control and Protective Measures prescribes protective clothing and equipment (gloves or eye protection), proper ventilation, and work practices.
  • Handling, Storage, and Disposal gives proper methods to follow for the chemical in question.

Employee Information and Training

Employees must establish a training and information program for employees exposed to hazardous chemicals when they are hired and whenever a new hazardous chemical is introduced into the salon. OSHA provides minimum information and training requirements for such programs which should be tailored to the specific conditions of your salon environment.

Consultation services and assistance is provided to employers at no charge through the OSHA Consultation project. This program helps employers to identify and correct specific hazards provides guidance in establishing or improving an effective safety and health program, and offers training and education for the employer and her supervisors and other employees. For more information on consultation programs, contact your local OSHA office.

Nail products are safe provided they’re handled and stored properly. The key to safe handling of nail products is knowing what you are buying and how the manufacturer of the product intends for the product to be used. Becoming familiar with the MSDS for each and every product used in your salon is an important step in this process.

By Charles Knight, the chairman of the Nail Manufacturers Council’s safety and standards committee, which is currently putting together a booklet on chemical safety and MSDS forms that will be made available to nail technicians.

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