By Khris Berry
Donna is a groomer at a busy salon in a busy burg. She works with several other groomers and they enjoy a vibrant workplace with happy clientele returning regularly. Her salon is like most—it has tubs, tables, gates, some cages, dryers, grooming equipment and pets.
There are electrical cords, plumbing fixtures, doors opening and closing, phones ringing, and clients coming and going. Her days are filled with barking dogs and bustling business concerns. Such is the life of a groomer in a busy grooming salon.
Donna’s co–worker brought her new puppy to work recently. Everyone enjoyed meeting and spending time with Peanut. Watching the little ball of fur playing around the grooming room filled the tedium of long hours. Peanut became comfortable in the salon and found a comfortable sleeping space at the foot of Donna’s table. Days turned into a few weeks and everyone became accustomed to Peanut’s antics—greeting customers, jumping into piles of hair, puppy–napping in the afternoon at someone’s feet. Peanut became a staple at the busy salon.
One afternoon, Peanut awoke early from his nap and stepped into the path of Donna as she returned to her table. She saw him and swerved too late. Donna stepped on Peanut, and caught off balance, she fell to the floor as well. The aftermath was not pleasant. Peanut suffered a broken pelvis and so did Donna. While Peanut will survive—and so will the groomer—the collateral damage from the accident was felt by many.
There were medical bills, both canine and, more devastatingly, human. The unfortunate groomer experienced loss of income, pain, and her co–workers experienced loss of much needed help to service customers. Her employer experienced an increase in worker’s compensation rates and the loss of income for her time off. Peanut meant no harm, and everyone enjoyed his presence, but if someone had assessed the risk he posed by playing free in the salon, the story could have had a much better outcome.
Groomers often become unaware of their surroundings over time. Likewise, they become less mindful of the hazards to themselves and pets that can occur in a grooming environment. Unfortunate but common injuries to both employees and pets can happen to even the most compassionate pet service professionals. Staying aware of your surroundings and learning to assess risks to yourself, your co–workers, and the pets in your care is critical to preventing injuries.
We all know that accidents happen—particularly when dealing with animals. Learning to eliminate some of these accidents from your workplace will allow not only you, but also your customers to enjoy a greater peace of mind when you are grooming their pet.
The easiest group of risks to assess and eliminate are avoidable injuries. Avoidable injuries include bites, cuts, scratches, clipper burn, shampoo or product related issues, drying mishaps, pets jumping from elevations such as tables, cages, or tubs, stepping on or tripping over loose pets, just to name a few. These injuries are generally avoidable because you can predict that they may happen based upon experience, animal knowledge, and practicing basic safe handling policies.
Many groomers become good at practicing safety for their furry clients before they think of doing so for themselves. Workplace safety doesn’t just stop at minimizing bite risk—it’s much more comprehensive. Groomers need to learn to see danger, not just in the snapping canines of a voracious terrier, but also in their everyday interactions with their equipment and workplace.
Think of the last time you blew out a Golden Retriever with a densely packed undercoat and how satisfying it was to present the freshly groomed dog to his adoring owners. Did you protect your ears from the decibels of the high velocity dryer? What? Did you protect your ears from the high velocity dryer!? See what I mean, hearing loss can sneak up on groomers over time.
Eye protection from dirt and debris is another concern for working pet stylists. I recently saw a groomer who was impaled in the eye by a flying nail clipping. No muss, no fuss—just a regular little dog with regular little nails. Thankfully, the groomer was not injured but it serves as a cautionary tale; protect your eyes from flying hair, nails and unexpected body parts.
Groomer’s lung is another health issue which is rapidly becoming a topic of discussion among pet professionals. Masks and breathing protection are a start but proper ventilation in your work space is necessary for additional protection.
You work in an industry which has a shortened career span. Much like a fireman or policeman, many pet groomers will not endeavor in the field all the way to retirement. Issues such as carpal tunnel, degenerative disc disease, tendonitis and tennis elbow are among the culprits which prevent groomers from earning full wages into their golden years. Take advantage of advancements in your industry by reducing strain on your body whenever possible. Hydraulic and electric tables and tubs, as well as anti–fatigue mats are another added perk which may add years to your career.
Many groomers have access to protection and prevention at their disposal; ear and eye protection, masks, muzzles, and many other aids to prevent injury or illness. What’s stopping you from using them?
In some cases, it’s a culture of not protecting oneself. How many times have you heard “There’s no crying in dog grooming”? Creating awareness to common health risks of your chosen career will help educate not only yourself, but future stylists as well. Basic groomer health dialog begins with taking care of you, so you can take care of your clients. You can create a culture of self–care in your working environment by utilizing the tools you have available to protect yourself.
A career in Pet Grooming is chock full of inherent hazards—from your environment to your unwilling clientele. As you learn to assess the risks around you and then employ good judgement, you will begin to practice better health and safety standards for yourself and your furry clients.
As animal caretakers, it’s natural to want to provide a safe and protective environment for our canine and feline guests. However, looking after your own safety is just as critical. Safeguarding against common groomer health issues will allow you to serve the clients you love in an industry you are passionate about for many years to come. ✂