It’s Easy to Learn the Hard Way - Groomer to Groomer

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It’s Easy to Learn the Hard Way

If you don’t use your equipment properly or wear protective gear when you should, you may face unpleasant and permanent consequences. I found this out the hard way, and maybe you have too…

Being a groomer comes with its share of occupational hazards, such as being scratched, bitten or otherwise injured by the pets that we groom. But, the pets themselves aren’t always the direct cause of groomer issues and injuries. Sometimes the way you do your job or the equipment you use can contribute to workplace health problems as well.

If you don’t use your equipment properly or wear protective gear when you should, you may face unpleasant and permanent consequences. I found this out the hard way, and maybe you have too…

I woke up one morning with a really dry, scratchy throat. I didn’t feel sick, so I assumed it was because I had been sleeping with my mouth open. However, over the next few weeks, more often than not, I woke up with that same nagging, dry throat. But as the day progressed, it would subside. This happened just about the time that Covid came on the scene but I still did not feel sick, and no one I was close to was sick either. I couldn’t figure out why I was waking up with a dry, scratchy throat so frequently. 


Because of Covid, my state required that I follow specific protocols to stay open. One of those requirements was that groomers had to wear masks at work. One day I chose a bright blue mask to go with my grooming outfit. When I took it off at the end of the day, it wasn’t blue anymore. I was horrified! The mask was completely covered with nail dust and other debris that was on the toenails I sanded that day. 

I always knew that my dremel was grinding the nails into dust, but I never really thought I was breathing it in and taking it into my body. How wrong I was! I looked at the proof that was all over the bright blue mask. I instantly realized why my throat was so dry and scratchy—it was coated with this gross dust! And, if the nail grinding dust was coating my throat, what was it doing to my lungs?

I then looked at the filters on all my dryers and saw that they also had a coating on them. It was the dust from nail grinding, and also dander, dirt, hair and lots of unknown particles.  As I looked at those filters, the thoughts of Emphysema, COPD and Groomers Lung went through my mind. 

I have a clipper vacuum system so I immediately ordered the attachment for my dremel that sucks in the nail dust as it is produced. Why I didn’t order one before, I have no idea. Now, just to be doubly safe, I wear my mask every time I do toenails and any time I dry a pet or de-shed one with my high velocity dryer.

I have also learned the hard way why everyone should wear hearing protection while they are grooming. Using forced-air dryers, nail grinders and clippers expose you to constant noise. And, dogs that bark incessantly can make you crazy while they contribute to the barrage of noise you are exposed to daily. 

The Center for Disease Control estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially-damaging noise at work each year. Noise can create physical and psychological stress, reduce your productivity, interfere with your concentration, and even contribute to workplace accidents and injuries.

Do you know if your workplace noise level is too high? Here’s a simple test: If you need to raise your voice to speak to someone who is just three feet away, the noise level could be over 85 decibels.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can occur from prolonged exposure to sound levels of 85 dB and above. NIHL is the gradual and irreversible loss of hearing ability. Excessive noise levels over a long period of time will damage your hearing. It may happen so gradually that you do not notice it until you realize that it is hard for you to understand conversations or you keep asking people to repeat things they have said.

How loud is too loud? That depends on three things: How loud the sound is, how far away it is, and how long were you exposed to it. 

Have you ever been to a firing range? Everyone there wears hearing protection. The noise from firing a gun is brief, but its intensity and closeness can cause immediate hearing damage. 

While a dryer in the salon is not nearly as loud as a gun, if you operate one for multiple hours everyday, it can cause you to experience hearing loss. When HV dryers first came out, I didn’t wear any hearing protection. No one told me I should, and I never really thought about it…after all, it was just air whooshing, right? Well, the constant noise produced by dryers, clippers and other equipment was damaging my auditory system without me even realizing it.

The effects of noise-induced hearing loss can be profound.  I now have tinnitus.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, I hear whistling and a constant chirping sound like hundreds of crickets on the warpath. My tinnitus will always be with me. There is no cure.  But, if I had just taken a few seconds to put on hearing protection, I could have avoided it.

Grooming is hard work. Why make it any more difficult on yourself than it already is? 

The cumulative exposure to noise, nail dust and other daily occupational hazards can permanently affect your work career and the quality of your life. Treat yourself with as much care and concern as you show to the pets you groom or, like me, you’ll learn the hard way. ✂️


Kathy Hosler

Kathy Hosler opened her shop in 1971 when she was just nineteen years old. She has built a terrific business and is still actively grooming today. Kathy is also a feature writer for Groomer To Groomer and Pet Boarding & Daycare Magazines, and has been nominated twice for the Barkleigh Honors Journalist of the Year Award as well as a Cardinal Crystal Achievement Award for Grooming Journalist.

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