British Columbia

Hair stylists, physiotherapists and other B.C. personal care workers seeking COVID-19 safety guidance

Sabrina Cowx, a Vancouver hair stylist, said she's excited to get back to work when salons and other businesses start getting approval to reopen in coming weeks. But she and many other personal service workers are still uncertain about how best to work in safety and follow provincial guidelines.

Industry groups are working with province to develop guidelines

Sabrina Cowx is a hairstylist at Style Lab, a salon in Vancouver's Yaletown neighbourhood. She and other workers in her field are hoping for clearer guidance for health and safety when salons and other personal care businesses reopen in B.C. (Harman/CBC)

Sabrina Cowx, a Vancouver hair stylist, said she's excited to get back to work when salons and other businesses start getting approval to reopen in coming weeks. 

Judging by the response to a waiting list she posted on Instagram, she thinks clients are excited for her to come back too.

"I woke up to, like, 50 inboxes and DMs [from clients] trying to get the ball rolling," said Cowx.

"I'm excited to get back to work and start doing my passion, what I love, but I'm nervous that some people might not follow the guidelines [for COVID-19 prevention] ... and then bring it in here." 

Sabrina Cowx sits in Style Lab, the Yaletown salon where she rents a chair. It's been over six weeks since she last set foot inside it. (Harman/CBC)

Adding to Cowx's concerns is the fact that she's four months pregnant.

"So that's a little nerve wracking."

She and many other personal service workers are still uncertain about how best to work in safety and follow provincial guidelines.

Proposals required

The province's COVID-19 Joint Information Centre said all sectors of the economy are being asked to submit health and safety standard proposals.

Those standards will be reviewed by WorkSafeBC and public health officials and then guidelines will be developed for individual businesses to follow.

B.C. Premier John Horgan, centre, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, left, and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, said Wednesday some businesses ordered closed in the province could reopen in coming weeks. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Personal care businesses, like hair and nail salons and tattoo parlours were ordered closed. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will have to lift or modify her orders before they can reopen, the spokesperson said.

Cowx said that once they're able to reopen Style Lab, the Yaletown salon where she rents a chair, there will be fewer clients and they must come alone. 

There will be fewer stylists at one time to help everyone maintain distance.

'I'm looking for answers'

Jimmy Slimz, owner of Slimz Brand Barber Lounge in Penticton, is also concerned about safety. He has a heart condition himself and doesn't want to take chances.

"Do I need medical gloves? Should I be wearing a face guard? All of these things are very important," Slimz said.

"I'm looking for answers from our premier, number one, who is giving us this information that to me, is inadequate."

An interior shot of Slimz Brand Barber Lounge in Penticton owned by Jimmy Slims (Jimmy Slims)

He said his suppliers can't keep up with demand for personal protective equipment. He fears the reopening of businesses like his is happening too fast.

"It just seems very irresponsible to me," Slimz said. "I personally don't want to be the small barbershop that's the epicentre of an outbreak."

Guidelines coming

Slimz is also critical of the Beauty Council of Western Canada, which represents salon businesses.

He said the guidance from the organization has been underwhelming, but council executive director Greg Robins said they are working with the province to get a WorkSafeBC-approved plan for salons of all types to operate safely.

Robins says a new normal is unquestionably coming.

"Your salon won't be that fun, huggy, talky place that you know it to be," Robins said. "There'll be less talking. There'll be more distance. There'll be no hugging and the shampoo experience might be in utter silence."

Physiotherapists returning

Physiotherapists are also expecting to be back in business in coming weeks.

Carol Kennedy, physiotherapist and co-owner of Treloar Physiotherapy, said she expects sterilizing surfaces, frequent handwashing and personal protective equipment wherever possible will be the new normal.

"We've been all going with ... 'be safe, stay at home,'" Kennedy said. "Now we have to figure out how to be safe outside of home."

Christine Bradstock, CEO of the Physiotherapy Association of B.C., said her organization is working with the province for more precise guidance for her members.

"They're excited ... and looking forward to things returning to that new normal," Bradstock said.

With files from Tina Lovgreen

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