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Hair Salon Mishaps: How to Prevent Personal Injury and Errors and Omissions Lawsuits

15. November 2013 15:05

A bad haircut and E&O lawsuit in the making

Accidents happen – just ask Catherine Oldham of St. Louis County who suffered a cardiac arrest from having the wrong kind of chemical solution put into her hair at a local hair salon. Oldham had reportedly gone in for a routine shampoo when her stylist recommended dyeing her hair to get some of the gray out. Her stylist, DeShone Love, made the mistake of using an unmarked bottle in place of neutralizer – in fact, she put two different types of dye on Oldham’s scalp, doubling the acidity and causing lesions to form. Oldham suffered a bacterial infection that resulted in removal of her hair, and, in the end, a cardiac arrest.

Oldham survived the ordeal, but at what cost? Chronic pain, a pile of unpaid medical bills, and now legal action – alleging negligence on the part of her hair salon.

This raises the important question: as owner of a hair salon or spa, how can you prevent these types of accidents from happening to avoid the astronomical associated costs?

Quick Tips: Reducing Personal Injuries and Professional Mishaps for Your Hair Salon

Before you do anything, the first step you need to take in protecting yourself from these types of lawsuits is purchase Errors and Omissions Insurance and General Liability Insurance. Together these two policies can protect you from mistakes or oversights you and your staff make in your hairstyling duties (E&O) and from injuries or property damage caused to your clients and other salon visitors (GL). They do this by funding the legal expenses associated with lawsuits that often follow incidents like Oldham’s.

While these policies can help you deal with disasters that come with hefty price tags, however, you can also take some proactive measures to prevent such disasters from happening in the first place.

  1. Schedule quarterly meetings to discuss safety and health standards for your salon. The case mentioned above shows how dramatically a lawsuit can affect your business. One day a regular with a trusted stylist is sitting in the chair for a makeover, the next she’s known as “Plaintiff” and suing your business for negligence. That’s why you need to keep your employees up to date on safety and health standards. We understand you may not want to alter down on the laid-back atmosphere you value in your salon, but keeping everyone on the same page for safety and health standards will allow your stylists to stay focused.
  2. Reduce the impact of minor injuries by training employees in handling common occurrences. Prepare your employees for likely injury scenarios with simple training. For instance, physical and chemical burns are among the more common things that can go wrong in salons – in 200, a girl suffered severe burns during a colorization that resulted in litigation for the hair salon responsible. In this case, the plaintiff complained of burning sensations, but was ignored by the hair stylist. Have your stylists listen closely to customer complaints and take each one seriously. Suits over burns are particularly costly because the scarring is often both physical and emotional. For physical burns, have the following at the ready to prevent injuries from becoming worse while unattended: ice or a wet towel; hydrocortisone; and ibuprofen or aspirin for pain. While the damage may be done, you want your stylists to be able to limit the associated fallout by responding appropriately.
  3. Keep detailed records of injuries and errors. History repeats itself, and the best way to prevent potential lawsuits in the future is to learn from past mistakes. It’s important to keep a log or “accident book” on hand for new and existing stylists to study. Understanding the problems of the past can help limit them from happening in the present. It also gives you and your employees the opportunity to prepare for likely scenarios.

Further Information for Hair Salons and Beauty Parlors

To learn more about the hazards that may strike your salon, take a look at the article “5 Ways to Protect Your Salon, Spa, Beauty Parlor, Massage Parlor, or Barber Shop.”

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Salons and Personal Care Businesses | Small Business Risk Management

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