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Nail salon workers in Houston: Trainings on chemicals, ergonomics, and workers’ rights make healthier workplaces and empower workers

MCNNail salon workers encounter a surprising array of toxic chemicals at the workplace, and, as the New York Times reported in a scathing expose last year, workers are often unaware of the health risks they are taking and their rights to a safe and healthy workplace.

Migrant Clinicians Network launched Worker Safety and Health in Community Health Centers: A sustainable and integrative approach to immigrant safety to help empower and educate workers about work-related health concerns. The  program, funded by an OSHA Susan Harwood grant, works with health center outreach teams to facilitate health and safety training for vulnerable worker populations, such as agricultural workers and nail salon workers. This week, MCN’s Juliana Simmons, MSPH, CHES, Environmental and Occupational Health Program Manager is visiting HOPE Clinic, a health center partner in this program, as the clinic’s outreach team embarks on their first round of nail salon worker trainings in Houston, Texas.

The health and safety training is offered to nail salon workers, salon owners, and students who are in classes to earn their nail technician certification. The free, 3-hour training will cover chemical safety, as well as ergonomics and workers’ rights, said Simmons. “In addition to learning best practices for staying safe and healthy in the salon, nail salon owners will also have the opportunity to learn more about making their salons OSHA-compliant,” she added. Owners and workers alike receive a certificate of training completion at the end of the course.  HOPE Clinic’s outreach team is presenting this training in Vietnamese, but has received interest in training materials in Spanish and English as well.  

Trainings are an important aspect in the collaboration, but Simmons noted that MCN is working to support HOPE Clinic’s outreach team in growing the program beyond basic trainings. MCN has connected HOPE Clinic staff with other successful models focused on nail salon workers, including the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, which has been a successful driver of policy and advocacy around the health needs of nail salon workers.  “We are proud to foster outreach efforts at HOPE Clinic as they look to implement broader systems change on behalf of the health needs of their community members,” Simmons said. “That’s the ultimate goal: that the outreach team is connected with the community and empowered to make lasting and meaningful impacts to better the health of vulnerable community members like nail salon workers.”

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