Fabian Demicoli

Framework Agreement seeks to strengthen Health & Safety for Hairdressers


This was the topic of a conference
organized this week by the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA)
following an important development at EU level where a Framework Agreement on
the protection of occupational health and safety in the hairdressing sector was
signed. Mr Kenneth Ellul, GRTU member within the hairdresser sector, presented
GRTU's views.

GRTU and its representatives at EU
level UEAPME and EuroCommerce learned of the Framework Agreement only when it
was practically finalized. CoiffureEU together with its Maltese member theHair
and Beauty Federation signed the agreement in representation of employers. GRTU is not satisfied with the
amount of consultation that accompanied the introduction of such an important
agreement, which as it transpires was marginal. At national level it is now up
to the Hair and Beauty Federation to make sure that its members follow the
clauses of the Agreement and report back on implementation to the European
Commission. So far, it is not legally binding, as the Commission must still
decide whether it should become a directive.

GRTU's conclusion is that the agreement
is not bad news however it is not sensitive enough to the local service
providers. GRTU has consulted its members within the hairdressers section and
it transpired that they do already follow most of the content of the Agreement
however some clauses need not be as specific for the results they seek to
achieve.

There indeed are a number of hazards
that modern and equipped hairdressers today face and it is in the hairdressers'
direct interest to take any possible action for the benefit not only of their
employees and clients but for themselves and their family at the end of the
day. Hairdressers are however hindered by the usual limitations haunting
self-employed and micro-enterprises which are lack of resources and guidance.
They are however aggravated by the fact that they are subject to heavy unfair
competition by mobile hairdressers that operate with minimal certification and
training. Isn't it serious having semi trained and certified hairdressers
operate from people's homes when we are acknowledging that the occupation
carries such a hazard? Unfortunately this Framework Agreement like any other
new imposition on hairdressers, no matter how important, adds an extra burden
on the bona-fide hairdressers who are fully certified and undergo regular
training throughout their operation and in no way seeks to address those huge
numbers that operate under the radar.

Established hairdressers operate within
the principles of the framework agreement and even go beyond in some cases.
According to the president of the Hair and Beauty Federation, Corinne Farrugia,
who herself signed the agreement; many hairdressers do not carry out risk
assessments for hazards because they are not aware of their legal obligations
to do so. It is very easy to point the finger at hairdressers. Their role is to
run their business and need guidance to help them do things better. It is not
that they are not aware that there exist obligations but they are easily
alienated by other issues that are not perceived as immediate priority and
would appreciate having their attention directed and guided.

Guido Schwarz, a policy officer from
the European Commission, explained that the agreement aimed to guide
hairdressers on how to improve health and safety. The GRTU agrees that in fact
the Agreement is a document that offers good guidance and a source of
information but hairdressers still have to be guided. One also needs to
acknowledge that hairdressers are sometimes the victims of products that have
the wrong components, pH, etc…This makes the life of hairdressers
unnecessarily difficult.

GRTU and its members feel that the
Agreement outlines the basic standards that today are common practice. It is
obvious for them to choose height adjustable chairs, choose the least toxic
chemicals and use the most advanced tools when possible. We do however have a
problem when the Framework Agreement becomes far too technical stating that
illumination should be at 400lux minimum and fresh air flow should be of
100m3/hour per person. How are hairdressers expected to carry out such a
measurement? GRTU and its members feel that it is sufficient to state
illumination and fresh air flow should be adequate and sufficient to carry out
the work without problems.

There are a number of Member States
that oppose the agreement such as UK, Netherlands and Denmark. We feel that
implementing it into a Directive is not necessary and it is sufficient for it
to remain a Framework Agreement and offer guidance. It should not go any
further.

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