JAIME: Welcome to Outgrowth: A Slice of Pro Beauty with your hosts Jaime Schrabeck.
ASHLEY: And Ashley Gregory. At the federal and state levels of government, scientific experts have been responsible for producing guidance for our industry to learn how we can minimize our risks working in a salon environment.
JAIME: We welcome our special guest, Dr. Barbara Materna, Chief of the Occupational Health Branch in the California Department of Public Health. Let’s grow together.
JAIME: Welcome Dr. Materna to Outgrowth.
DR. MATERNA: Thank you.
JAIME: Your program, the Occupational Health Branch functions within the state’s public health agency and focuses on improving health and safety in the workplace. But beyond the California safe cosmetics program, I expect that few in our industry may have given your efforts much consideration until the coronavirus pandemic. Would you explain the role of the Occupational Health Branch and the California Department of Public Health within the state government, including what its authority is and the relationship to county and local governments?
DR. MATERNA: Okay. Sure. The California Department of Public Health and the local public health officers have a responsibility to coordinate public health response in an emergency situation, such as a pandemic. CDPH works in collaboration with the local health officers, most of whom are at the county level. And we both issue, CDPH and local health departments, can issue health orders and guidance to help promote best practices among the local health jurisdictions and among the public. The Occupational Health Branch itself is the lead part of CDPH for worker health and safety issues. We similarly advise the local health jurisdictions who may not have occupational health expertise and we support their efforts during this pandemic, for example, if they have an outbreak, or questions about the state guidance, or all kinds of technical issues like that. And we also work with Cal/OSHA during this pandemic to coordinate on worker safety and health issues.
ASHLEY: Now you mentioned the state guidelines, which is definitely something I want to ask you about. How much of what’s included in industry-specific guidelines come from industrial hygiene experts like yourself?
DR. MATERNA: Well the industry-specific guidance documents that are on the COVID19.ca.gov website are a collaboration between CDPH, Cal/OSHA, other relevant departments, and agencies across state government and the process is coordinated by the, the governor’s office of business and economic development, or we refer to it as GoBiz. The people working on these documents have a variety of different backgrounds and the participation of CDPH and Cal/OSHA ensures that the occupational safety and health professionals like myself are involved, the industrial hygienists and safety people. We also consult with physicians, infectious disease experts, and other scientists from across CDPH, where other specialized expertise is needed in developing the guidance. And the development process also includes soliciting input from organizations that represent both business owners and workers.
ASHLEY: Okay, so then what role would a beauty industry expert make or contribute to that process?
DR. MATERNA: During the last several months, I am aware of several meetings. I’ve participated in some of them myself, where representatives from the industry have met with members of this governor’s office work group, as well as CDPH, and maybe others. Cal/OSHA may have also had similar meetings. So it’s just been a series of meetings that have been set up to hear what the industry professionals have to say, to hear what business owners have to say, and organizations representing workers in the industry.
JAIME: Dr. Materna, how do CDC recommendations or the experiences of other states influence the state guidelines in California?
DR. MATERNA: Those of us working on the guidance consider all of the scientific findings out there that are being published during this pandemic, as well as the guidance from CDC, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, federal OSHA, etc., as well as guidance from other states and countries. So there are different people looking at all these different inputs to the process.
ASHLEY: Okay, so something I’m curious about then is obviously there’s other state’s guidelines and things being taken into consideration, but what I’d love to know is when the CDPH compares risks posed by beauty services to, let’s say, risks in other industries, where do we belong kind of on that hierarchy and why?
DR. MATERNA: Well, there are a number of factors that we consider when we think about the risk of transmitting COVID-19 in each type of workplace setting. Some of these include: how much contact is there with people, both other workers and customers or clients from outside of the worker’s own household? How many different people in a day? How many are crowded in one kind of space at a time? Does the work require interactions with others at distances that are under six feet, which increases the risk? How long does this kind of close contact with any other person last? Can face coverings be worn by both people during the action? What other factors might exist in the workplace that either increase or decrease risks, such as activities like shouting or heavy breathing that would increase the concentration of potentially infectious materials, particles, or good ventilation to help reduce the concentration? Another important factor is the rate of infection in the community since we’re particularly concerned about those who are infected, but don’t know it yet. And clearly personal service workers have some of the risks that I just mentioned, such as contact with the public and an inability to provide the service and still maintain six feet of distance, at least for a certain amount of time. But they can also use some of the protective measures that we recommend to reduce their risk. For example, having both people masked. It’s difficult to provide a risk ranking that compares across all industries because we’re balancing all these different factors, but we would expect the personal services are among a range of industries having a similar amount of contact with the public.
JAIME: Much was made of the CDC study focused on the Missouri stylists and the fact that it wasn’t obvious that they were responsible for any transmission of COVID though they themselves were infected while they were working in their salon. What role did that study play in the guidelines as they’ve evolved, because we’ve noticed that we had an initial opening and then we had a closure, and then we had permission given to outdoor services, and more recently we’re coming back online indoor?
DR. MATERNA: Well, we were working on the guidance for hair salons and barbershops starting back in May so that was well before this article on the Missouri stylists was published in July. But it did confirm for us the importance of our face covering requirement for both workers and clients, and it reassured us that with face covering requirements, even in communities with high levels of disease transmission, a relatively safe return to salons and barbershops could be possible.
ASHLEY: When it comes to a lot of the COVID reporting, we’re not really seeing a breakdown by industry other than healthcare workers and then just general population. I know that the department of public health is usually the first line of defense or the first report agency when there is some type of issue in a salon setting, and so I would love to know, or if you could share what the CDPH knows about the likelihood or the prevalence of outbreaks specifically within our industry or cases that could be attributed to our industry.
DR. MATERNA: When a local health department detects an outbreak, it is reportable to CDPH. But, for example, if multiple customers of one stylist happen to become infected with COVID-19, the association with that one stylist might not be noted or reported to the local health department unless one clinician tests and diagnosis them all and notes the common association or all of those clients happen to report it back to the stylist who then reports it to the local health department. So we could certainly miss some of this kind of transmission. Detailed and complete reliable information about outbreaks by industry is not necessarily available on a statewide basis outside of, as you mentioned, certain types of healthcare facilities, like skilled nursing homes, which are also required by prior regulations to report to local public health. Some geographic locations, such as Los Angeles County, do post the names of workplaces with identified outbreaks on their websites. And a typical definition of an outbreak would be three COVID-19 cases among workers from different households within a 14-day period. Looking ahead, a new California law, AB 685, which becomes effective January 1st, requires employers to report outbreaks to local health departments and that information will be provided to CDPH. CDPH will be then required to post information on outbreaks by industry on our website and Cal/OSHA and local health departments will be required to post a link to our outbreak information on our website.
JAIME: That we use the term workers repeatedly makes me think that there may be a disconnect between your normal work which would focus on workplaces where there is an owner, an employer, and then employees, and in our industry, in many cases, there may be a salon owner, but those individuals who work within the business are independent. They’re booth renters, or they may be working alone. Has there been a challenge to connect this information and make it apply to everyone?
DR. MATERNA: Well, in our guidance documents, we’re using the term workers purposefully instead of employees because of acknowledgement that there are many situations where the owner or the boss is working right alongside of independent contractors, or employees, or temporary employees from another employer. You know we have all those kinds of different workplace arrangements out there. And for the purpose of stopping the spread of transmission, that particular employment status isn’t all that relevant. What’s relevant is who is working together in the same workspace. So, we’re aware of that. I suppose you’re raising a point that’s relevant to AB 685 because the phrasing in that law about employer reporting uses the term employer and it hasn’t gone into effect yet, so we don’t really know all the answers quite yet about interpretations of the exact legal language. We’re beginning to work on the details of implementation and planning for how this information will be handled, but the outbreak information that’s in our system doesn’t really account for that distinction between employee versus independent contractor versus anywhere else. The outbreak module is focused on what is the space where this transmission is occurring and what kind of a setting is it? Is it a school? Is it a hospital? Is it a, you know, there’s those are the distinctions. What kind of a space is it?
ASHLEY: Okay, so regardless of employment classification, if an exposure does happen within a salon environment, what steps specifically should a salon owner take?
DR. MATERNA: So we have a document. It’s on our website and on the COVID19.ca.gov website. It’s called responding to COVID in the workplace. And we developed this for employers both to help prepare for an outbreak or a single case of COVID in the workplace, and to know what to do if illness is identified among workers or a customer that shows up at this salon. So we recommend developing a relationship with the local health department because they can help advise employers or business owners on how to follow up on possible exposures to employees, things like how to determine which workers should be tested, and isolated or quarantined, while they’re waiting for their test result, how to obtain their testing. And the owners should also re-examine all of their COVID-19 prevention practices and see where there are improvements that may need to be made.
JAIME: Outside of the coronavirus pandemic, does your program normally collect data on our industry, the beauty industry?
DR. MATERNA: Well, you referred earlier to our safe cosmetics program and we definitely do collect relevant information to your industry within that program. So that program is focused on collecting manufacturer reports of ingredients in cosmetic products that have been identified as causing cancer or reproductive or developmental harm. So we do operate a publicly-available, searchable database where people can go and enter into product names or product types and look up information about whether they’ve been reported to contain any of these ingredients. And that system is in place both for products out there on the consumer market as well as the professional market for hair salons and nail salons.
JAIME: Dr. Materna, is there anything else related to the coronavirus pandemic and our industry that you’d want us to know?
DR. MATERNA: I would just say everyone connected in the industry should follow the public health guidance to wear their masks, to keep as much distance as possible, to introduce as much ventilation as possible into your shops, and provide a safe and healthy workplace for all the workers there and the customers that come to your businesses.
JAIME: Well, that’s what we’re striving to do and again, thank you for being with us, and sharing your expertise so that our listeners can know right from the source exactly what they should be doing for their health and the health and safety of their clients.
ASHLEY: Yes. Thank you so much again for your time. We appreciate it very much. And of course our mission is to bring fact-based information to our industry and to our listeners so that they know that there are many agencies and many experts involved in creating these guidelines. They’re not just kind of divined from the popular opinion, or what have you. So it’s always good to know a little bit behind the scenes how this works.
DR. MATERNA: Thank you.
ASHLEY: Well, again, another enlightening interview with one of the people that make these guidelines happen and explain exactly how those inner workings work so that we can better understand all around.
JAIME: And speaking of work, this was work to get this interview done, but I am so pleased that it came together because we actually had this interview planned for earlier in the week. And we were put off by a couple of days, and do you want to explain why, Ashley?
ASHLEY: Well, our questions were so hard hitting and well thought out, written by Jaime of course, that the legal department got a little sweaty and they wanted to make sure everything was cleared before they allowed someone from their agency to answer these questions. So I’m really glad that we were able to have this conversation and kind of get to the bottom of some things, because we have talked to a federal expert or an expert on the federal level, Dr. Estill in our CDC episode just a few weeks ago, but now we understand how the states work and using California as an example, as we love to do, that this is how between federal guidance and county health departments, what happens in the middle, and how these guidelines are made.
JAIME: This process of getting this information from government agencies, we’re finding that it’s not unusual that they ask for our questions in advance and that they get cleared by either a legal department or at least it goes through a public information officer, and we have no issue with that because we want to make sure that we’re getting the right expert to address the questions that we have. And that expert is comfortable participating in our podcast and being honest. We want them to be in a position to feel like they can be straightforward in their responses.
ASHLEY: And I think this is an unprecedented situation for a lot of these experts because they have something like a public information officer who deals with media requests or requests for comment, or what have you. I think appearing on podcasts, or being interviewed on the news, or whatever, it’s just a whole new world for everyone. And maybe it’s a small silver lining of what has happened through COVID, but these experts are now stepping out into the spotlight and really explaining how they’re qualified to determine what the guidelines are for almost every industry. And with I think that responsibility comes a lot of power, but it’s nice to know that it is a thoughtful process. Lots of different experts are consulted from all areas, including our own industry, to come up with something that’s going to work hopefully for everyone.
JAIME: We’re far too small to have our own legal department.
ASHLEY: That’s true. And if we were to have one, I think it would be you.
JAIME: Well, we could delegate. The point that was made about the word workers and outside of the coronavirus pandemic, when we normally see the word workers in legislation, or even now, when we we’re talking about the politics of a proposition, like Proposition 22, whereby if it passes, Uber, Lyft, and those other companies would be able to treat their workers differently from how other companies have to treat their workers. I think it’s probably understandable that in the guidelines, the word workers is used even though it applies to everyone. Normally, it would only apply in those situations where you had a salon owner with employees, but we understand that the guidelines are intended for everyone. We all need to follow the guidelines, whether we’re an employee, or we’re the salon owner, or we’re working alone, or we’re working with other booth renters. It doesn’t matter. Those guidelines apply to all of us.
ASHLEY: They do. And they apply to all of us equally, whether we enjoy them, whether we think they’re a pain. It’s about public health. It’s about safety, and while we may not all agree with everything at the time, obviously, it’s a good peek behind the curtain and a great way to understand too, that there is, not accountability, but that there are interested parties who want to know how this process works. And instead of just having things delivered from on high, on a stone tablet, it’s a living, working document created by people who are uniquely qualified to do so. So I appreciate Dr. Materna’s time in helping us understand that, and in turn, helping our listeners know that there is a human element to this, and it’s not just capital T them.
JAIME: When you review the Occupational Health Branch’s website, there are so many topics that are listed there that would intersect with what we do, whether it’s ergonomics, or bloodborne pathogens, or the cosmetics. There’s much more information that I think we could glean, whether we’re trying to protect our employees in my situation where I am an employer, or just protecting yourself when you’re working with these products or just working in general. We need to do more to protect ourselves and our clients.
ASHLEY: Well, I think as we’ve stated many times on this podcast, meaning the guidelines, that’s the bare minimum. And I think the more information we get in the background that we acquire as beauty professionals helps us understand how we can exceed these guidelines and do a little bit more just to ensure everybody’s safety. We’re going to get through this.
JAIME: Right. And we will get through it being compliant and communicating more. This entire interview, we did not mention the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology once.
ASHLEY: We did not.
JAIME: Which I did not realize until afterwards.
ASHLEY: Right, and that just shows that well, something that’s outwardly facing toward our industry, where we like to put all of the blame or the praise for any type of guideline or regulation or restriction, we have to know that it’s not just the board. It is so many other potential agencies that can actually have agency over our day-to-day lives.
JAIME: One of the questions I saw on social media repeated more than once as salons were reopening was whether or not those requirements to have a COVID-19 prevention plan applied to them if they were working alone, and again, I want to scream. Yes, it applies to you because whether you’re working alone, or you own a business and you have employees, or you’ve got coworkers and you’re all independent, it doesn’t matter. Whoever owns the business takes that responsibility.
ASHLEY: Well, and the virus doesn’t care what your employment classification is. I mean, really, like.
ASHLEY: It doesn’t care if you’re in a room with three people or 30 people and that’s just I think shortsighted.
JAIME: It’s designed to protect you as the person providing the service, but it’s also meant to protect the public because why else would this be taken up under the umbrella of the department of public health if it weren’t for the fact, and we’ve said this repeatedly, that this is a health crisis, not a beauty industry crisis.
ASHLEY: Exactly, and sometimes I think that helps us feel less alone in the process too, to know that everyone’s facing down some type of difference in their day-to-day life, whether it be mask wearing or their processes and procedures being different or slower or more deliberate, whatever that looks like. We’re not alone. We’re all experiencing some level of, of change. And while it’s making us probably all a little bit uncomfortable, it’s just nice to know that we’re not alone in it either.
JAIME: I will say this. Once the guidelines were established back in June, and then we shifted to that short time period where outdoor services were an option, and now we’re reopening indoors, the guidance didn’t change that much. So it’s not like we’re having to draft this plan and then revise it constantly just to keep up and stay compliant. I don’t see that being the case at all. And if anything were to change that was drastic, we would probably hear about it. People would be complaining about it, certainly. And we would be able to make those tweaks. And as far as my county goes, we’re able to reopen without having to submit the plan. We’re not having to do anything above and beyond developing the plan and having it available in case someone were to come in and ask for it, but we’re not having to seek approval beforehand, or get a permi,t or anything like that.
ASHLEY: So I think it could have been much worse as well.
JAIME: That’s my point. It could have been much worse and they have their hands full, just even getting the information out and we have seen over time how the guidelines have, in terms of page count, become longer. And as much as we’d like to simplify things, you know maybe now’s not the time and when we’re in this mode. Maybe when we could all take a breath and we’ve overcome a first wave, and we’ve gotten a handle on this, we could have more substantive conversations about how we can collaborate better for the future. And I know these agencies don’t like to get ahead of themselves and talk about what best practices they implemented for the pandemic would be best practices and should be mandated for the future in our regulations, but those are conversations I want to have. And I hope that we’re building relationships with the people that will be making those decisions and making those recommendations to the legislators and to the other regulatory agencies that take part in this process.
ASHLEY: I think maybe the best case scenario of all of these interviews is that we’re helping to prove that our industry is engaged, interested in this process, and wanting to contribute in a real way. Well, if you’re enjoying Outgrowth, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts and you can now do so with just one click. Visit bit.ly/outgrowthpodcast.
JAIME: As always you can follow us and comment on recent episodes on Instagram at @outgrowthpodcast.
ASHLEY: Well, it seems like we have much more studying to do, and I’m looking forward to it.
JAIME: I am too, because you know what? When we do that, we get smarter.
ASHLEY: As if that were possible. All right. Well until next week, be smart.
JAIME: But be humble.
ASHLEY: Sure. Alright. Be safe.