How can we expect to raise the level of safety in salons when 4 people are expected to monitor 1400

Daily News Staff

Posted Jul. 5, 2015 at 2:12 AM

Manicures and pedicures are considered among the most accessible forms of pampering. Market studies show that the $7 billion nail industry in the U.S. stayed strong even through the recession.

Concerns about hygiene and workplace safety have shed a light on the dark side of the inexpensive luxury, especially after a recent New York Times series about the plight of salon workers in New York City prompted New York Gov.

Andrew Cuomo to take immediate action. The Times series found instances of unsanitary working conditions, unfair payments to workers and exposure of some workers to potentially hazardous chemicals.

In Massachusetts, salons are regulated by the Board of Registration of Cosmetology and Barbering, a four-member board that is in charge of licenses related to salons and imposing punishments for violations. The board was formed in May after merging three state registration boards for barbering, cosmetology and electrology. The new board is supposed to have six members but has two vacancies. Inspections are done by a separate team of four inspectors who work under the state Division of Professional Licensure.

According to complaint records obtained through a Daily News public records request, the state responded to 17 complaints against salons or salon workers in the MetroWest and Milford area in the past five years in Framingham, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Marlborough, Milford, Natick, Northborough and Wayland.

Inspections are typically done when a new business opens or if the state receives a complaint, according to the Division of Professional Licensure Director Charles Borstel. However, the state tries to do occasional random inspections, he said.

During those visits, inspectors look for unsanitary conditions or any unlicensed practices. Inspectors have the authority to write a ticket on-site if a salon has a violation. Each violation carries a $100 fine.
The Board of Cosmetology and Barbering then has the right to uphold that citation or impose a harsher punishment. If a customer has a complaint about a salon, he or she can fill out a two-page form provided by the Division of Licensure Office of Investigations.

The office gets a lot of frivolous complaints, namely issues that don’t necessarily warrant a visit from a state inspector, such as dissatisfaction with a nail color or a bad haircut at a hair salon. Inspectors clearly identify themselves when they visit a salon, said Borstel.

The response time for complaints depends on their severity, he said. If a customer was physically harmed during a salon visit, inspectors go to the salon as soon as possible.

The Better Business Bureau also receives salon complaints. In the past 12 months, the BBB received 15 complaints against nail salons. Four of the complaints alleged unhygienic conditions. Nearly 50 percent of the complaints the BBB gets about salons tend to be about businesses not honoring Groupons or gift cards, according to Denise K. Nelson, operations manager for the local BBB chapter.

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