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Jeff Owen, CEO of Kaemark, US-based designer, manufacturer and importer of salon furniture, says there is a a quiet revolution going on in salon design. "And while you won’t find any Pinterest boards or Instagram posts devoted to it, the emerging victors are the stylists and the salon owners looking after those stylists," he says. "The owners aren’t paying for doctors’ visits, dealing with absenteeism, losing key people to competitors or being served papers for negligence, (and their teams are not losing income through illness or forced to move to another salon) because they know building in body-friendly measures during a build-out will help protect against liabilities and protect their team."
Owen takes on the topic of chronic pain and work-related injuries which can affect many stylists at some point in their careers. Bad habits can be the culprit, but Owen maintains that poorly designed furniture and equipment is often a contributing factor, as well.
"The constant pressure on budgets when building a salon was leading many owners to cut corners, which in the end is a danger to their team," Owen says. "But it’s a false economy, because a salon’s most valuable asset is its team and if three in four of that team are struggling with pain associated with their job, that salon will struggle to survive."
Owen also maintains that putting ergonomics – the workability of the space – at the top of the priority list doesn’t mean pushing up the budget and cutting back on the luxurious extras. Good old-school craftsmanship, with beautiful products that are robust and quick to repair, will deliver the standards needed to protect staff. He points to four key areas of the body that can be protected if an owner opts for affordable, ergonomic kit and suggests stylists considering a move should keep an eye out for these.
Feet and back: "The trend for polished concrete or tiles on the floor ensures longevity for a salon but it can be murderous for stylists’ feet and back. Standing all day on a hard surface can jar the whole body, but placing a Kurative Mat, with its generous depth and hard wearing polyeurathane, will create a softer footing and protect your lovely floor from any scratches made by the chair."
Neck and shoulders: "The hotspot for stylists is the back, but the neck and shoulders are also constantly under strain, making it crucial salons have the right equipment. The habit of shampooing and rinsing from the side is one the industry needs to break as it puts unnecessary pressure on the neck and shoulders. Bowls that tilt are a must, and (if possible) encouraging stylists to approach the wash station as a backwash can radically reduce aches and pains. The height at which the shampoo unit is placed can also support a healthy work environment. Talk to a designer about your specific wants and needs and how you should adjust the height of your bowl."
Hips and back: "Don’t scrimp on the chairs, as these can make a salon. Besides being super-comfortable and wide enough for any client, they must also have good hydraulics that are deep enough to adjust to the shortest and tallest of stylists, and easy to adjust to protect stylists’ hips and back as they pump the chair up and down for each client. Check how many pumps a chair needs to move vertically up and down. Cheap pumps can take up to 2X-3X as many pumps to do raise or lower a chair. Considerate salons are also providing saddle stools to give respite to stylists, who can sit for a short while during consultations. It also means they are on the same eye level as the client, which builds trust during consultations."
Upper body and arms: "Making stylists stretch for equipment is tantamount to torture. Equipment must be easily available. Ensuring all trollies, slides and drawers are at the right height doesn’t cost more money in a build-out, but it will make a huge difference to the comfort of the team."