NY Letter Grades Not Just for Restaurants AnymoreHair and nail salons in New York City may soon be posting more than just daily specials in their windows. As part of a newly proposed city ordinance, nail salons, beauty salons, and barber shops could receive letter grades based on the level of sanitation practiced in their establishments, similar to the letter grading system used at restaurants in NYC and other cities across the nation.

Citing a recent study that found customers and technicians are routinely exposed to severe toxins, bacteria, and nail lamps which can lead to numerous health problems including staph infection, skin cancer, respiratory issues, and hepatitis, Councilman Raphael Espinal and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. introduced the legislation to allow the city to set up and enforce the grading system above and beyond existing state requirements.

Nail and hair salons in New York are currently required to be licensed and regulated by the state, which has just 27 inspectors. With New York City alone housing over 2,000 licensed nail care salons, and many more thousands of beauty salons and barber shops, it is an impossibility to regulate with the current number of inspectors.

Restaurant Ratings Reduce Emergency Room Visits

The proposed grading system will mirror the Health Department’s oversight of NYC eateries, which was first introduced in 2010, requiring restaurants to post their A, B or C grade prominently in their windows. It is not yet clear how much violations could cost salons; fines imposed for restaurant violations in the city range from $200 for minor offenses to $2,000 for severe infractions. According to city health officials, emergency room visits involving food poisoning dropped after the system was adopted.

Increased Scrutiny of Salons Nationwide

While assigning letter grades to hair and nail salons is a new concept in the nation, other cities have been working diligently to crack down on unsanitary salon practices, particularly in nail salons. In 2011, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee passed the Healthy Nail Salon Recognition ordinance, promoting not only stricter sanitation standards but also the use of environmentally friendly, non-toxic products. Earlier the same year, the Boston Public Health Commission enacted new regulations setting strict cleanliness and sanitation standards for nail salons within the city limits.

Customer Bill of Rights

With the advent of “nail art,” nail care has become a major industry in recent years. On average, women spent $204 for salon services in 2012, according to NPD Group, Inc. As the industry grows, so do the number of reports of unsanitary practices, often leading to the transmission of nail fungus and hepatitis. Without proper ventilation, toxic chemicals used in many salons can lead to respiratory issues and even cancer. The proposed NYC legislation would require periodic retraining of licensed practitioners and provide for more inspectors to monitor these businesses. Customers would be provided a “bill of rights,” entitling them to ask for better ventilation, tool sterilization and use of new files and buffers.

A survey of local business owners found that most did not object to the new proposed standards. In fact, establishments most likely to be affected by this legislation are the unlicensed salons operating under marginal conditions. By far the most common complaint received by the state’s licensing agency in recent years has been that of unlicensed operators. So if your establishment is licensed, sanitary, and environmentally-conscious, proudly display that A on your windows to let inquiring customers know your high health standards.

Interested in learning how to promote your salon? Check out our post on ‘12 Tips for Salon Marketing‘.