ON Tuesday the Prime Minister said hairdressers and barbers could continue to operate, observing the premises rule of one person per four square meters and a limit of 30 minutes on premises for each customer, however the 30 minute time frame has now been abolished.
The messaging is confusing, changing and often not consistent with infection control practices and social distancing.
How can hairdressers and barbers protect themselves, their staff and their customers?
We completely understand how difficult it is to practically apply the basic infection control practices in close environments, but hopefully by understanding them you may be able to minimise some of the risk for you and your clients, by implementing what you can.
- Pre-screen staff and clients: Ask them if:
- they have been overseas in the last 14 days?;
- they have any symptoms of colds, flu or coronavirus? – this INCLUDES symptoms such as “scratchy throat”;
- they have asthma or allergies which may be causing a cough, scratchy throat or runny nose? – in these cases you must decide if you are willing to accept the risk if it is more than another condition;
- they have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus?;
- don’t be frightened to say no to a staff member working if they are unwell or a client, you need to protect yourself and everyone else you come into contact with;
- keep a list of all clients who come in and their contact details, in case you do have to do contact tracing with public health at any stage.
- Hand washing:
- On arrival ask clients to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds – ideally they dry their hands with disposable paper towel;
- Wash your hands before starting work on a new client (or change your gloves), ideally do this between clients and after finishing work on a client.
- Time frames: Public Health define a contact with an infected person as 15 minutes – this means for each confirmed case they trace who they were in contact with for 15 minutes, contact them and tell them to self-isolate for 14 days. The longer you spend in close contact with someone the more the risk of infection increases. Do you have the ability for clients to sit outside while they have dye in?
- Distancing: If somebody coughs or sneezes the virus can contaminate surfaces and people within 1 metre, hence the social distancing rule of 1.5 metres to ensure droplets do not reach you.
- For hairdressers who are standing behind their clients, this offers some protection, but for the client they are at increased risk by being in front of the hairdresser.
- Also the risk of infection increases if you are below the infected person, as the droplets can fall on you. This can have implications while clients are in the chair and especially at the wash basin. At the hand basin the client is laying back underneath the hairdresser and very exposed. To decrease risk, the hairdresser could wear a mask and the client could wear a mask and safety goggles.
- Masks: NEVER touch the main area of the mask – this can place the infection directly onto the mask and increase your risk of infection.
- ONLY adjust or touch the mask by the ties.
- The mask must be fitted properly, so that it is up over the upper bridge of your nose and well down over the chin. The mask should be disposed of after use – even when taking off the mask ONLY touch the strings, put it in the bin and wash your hands thoroughly.
- Goggles: Wearing a mask only protects your nose and mouth, but your eyes are still exposed. If you are close enough to be exposed to droplets reaching your nose and mouth, they can also reach your eyes and the virus can enter your system via your eyes. If you use goggles, they should have arms which protect the side of your face, normal optical glasses do not work. When taking them off only touch the arms and either dispose of the goggles after use, or if reusable, put them straight into a sink or bucket for cleaning.
- Gloves: Fortunately gloves are used by many hairdressers, but if used incorrectly gloves can contaminate more surfaces, as people tend to touch more surfaces and wash their hands less (or change their gloves less). The gloves can protect your own hands, but be conscious that you are not touching and cross-contaminating more surfaces by wearing them. Also it is REALLY important to take gloves off properly below is a video that shows you how to do that, unfortunately there is no audio, but the key is not to have the outside of the glove touch your skin. See video below.
Again, we know so many of these infection control measures may be impractical, but if there is anything you can implement, it may reduce risk.