OSHA has just released a hazard alert to hair salon owners warning of potential formaldehyde exposure from working with some hair smoothing and straightening products. In a press release announcing the hazard alert, OSHA states:

Federal OSHA has found formaldehyde in the air when stylists used hair smoothing products, some of which do not have formaldehyde listed on their labels or in material safety data sheets as required by law. During one investigation, the agency’s air tests showed formaldehyde at levels greater than OSHA’s limits for a salon, even though the product tested was labeled as formaldehyde-free.

OSHA has a health standard that regulates formaldehyde exposure in the workplace. OSHA recommends that hair salons first use products that do not contain formaldehyde. But, OSHA states that “if a salon owner decides to continue using a formaldehyde-containing hair smoothing product, then he or she must follow OSHA’s formaldehyde standard,” including requirements for air monitoring, installing ventilation, and providing PPE, depending upon the extent of formaldehyde exposure.

This is not the first alert issued by OSHA to a specific industry. In recent months, OSHA has publicly put grain handling and retail shopping employers on notice of potential safety and health hazards in those industries. Targeting industries through hazard alert letters, letters of interpretation, Federal Register notices, or other means, may make it easier for OSHA to enforce standards against employers in the industries targeted, as they help to establish employer notice of hazards and feasible means of abatement. Employers in targeted industries need to be particularly aware of safety and health hazards and take steps to ensure they are fully compliant with OSHA rules. In the case of hair salons, OSHA gives an even clearer warning, stating that it currently has a number of ongoing investigations at salons and some citations “have been issued.”