Regulations Gone Wild×300.jpg” alt=”” width=”226″ height=”300″ />First, let me start by saying that I have never run a small business. And I greatly admire those who do, or have done so and lived to tell about it. Their specific knowledge, expertise and experience trumps mine. But I still need to address the challenges that small businesses face so my next best option is to talk

to people who run small businesses that I patronize.

Several days ago, I talked to my nail technician. I asked her, “What is the biggest challenge of being self-employed?” Her answer? Not the clients, the state of the economy or even taxes. “Regulations that defy common sense,” she said. Nail salons, hair salons and other businesses that provide clients a personal service must meet requirements for cleanliness and sanitation. These are well-intentioned state-level requirements put in place (which vary from state to state) in order to protect the health and safety of the public. I admit I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I walk in to a salon and see clean manicure stations, hospital-grade disinfectant in jars, and the technician’s operating licenses posted in plain view for all to see.

About five years ago, a Texas woman died of a staph infection — an extremely rare occurrence — after having a pedicure. This was incredibly tragic and could have been prevented if the salon owner had followed basic sanitation procedures. Several other salons were fined for health and safety violations as well. Consumers became wary after that incident, but salons responded by advertising the cleanliness of their facilities. The National Cosmetology Association reported that sanitary problems are reported in only a small percentage of 250,000 salons operating nationwide. Nonetheless, in 2006, the State of Texas added a revised section to its “Cosmetology Administrative Rules” on the proper care and cleaning of pedicure tubs. Sounds like a bit of common sense, right?

But rules do not come without cost, in terms of time and money:

  • Stainless steel implements must now be sterilized using an autoclave (the pedicure death, incidentally, did not involve any stainless steel instruments at all, but a pumice stone).
  • Technicians must keep a log of how often they clean and sterilize pedicure tubs (anybody could write down anything and present it to the state inspector…a log does not guarantee that cleaning procedures are being followed).

Autoclaves cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 and up. Keeping a paper log involves taking time away from tending to clients and putting it toward paperwork instead.

Then come the regulations that make my self-employed nail technician go “huh?” For example:

  • She is required to attend sanitation classes every two years (the same class over and over again).
  • She is required to purchase the state’s cosmetology rule book every year. The color of the cover changes annually so inspectors will know who has an updated version and who does not (never mind that the rules can be obtained online).
  • She is required to keep “hazmat” protective gear on hand (eye wear, gloves, masks) in case, for an example, a customer vomits in the salon (I personally have never seen this myself, nor has my nail technician ever experienced it).

Not to mention she is required to renew her operator’s license and booth rental license every two years. These are just a few requirements out of a list of many. What do they have in common? They cost the self-employed time and money. Violations can result in citations and pretty hefty fines. So the question is, do these rules really protect the public, or are they simply a way for states to raise revenue at the expense of the small business owner? You be the judge.



Comments (3)

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  1. Pat says:

    Great article. The other thing perhaps worthy of mention is the fact that customers have choices and can choose to patronize a clean establishment, or a dirty one. How long would the dirty one stay open? Isn’t the market itself a pretty good form of regulation. If you heard a friend tell you they got an infection after a pedicure at a particular salon, would you go there? Another question is: Weren’t regulations already in place when that poor woman got sick and died? We can’t regulate our way out of risk and accident. We can, however, regulate our way out of prosperity.

    On a larger scale, do we need regulations on food processing? Isn’t there tremendous incentive built into the concept of staying successfully in business for food processors to know that if people get sick eating their product they will go out of business very quickly? This isn’t to say that, when something unfortunate happens someone shouldn’t figure out why and what to do to prevent it. But regulators don’t stop there, relying on a business to implement the very precautions that will keep them successfully in business. They not only go overboard (often) with the regulation, but also pile on paperwork and other costs (such as the classes and the books).

    Between consumers making choices in their own best interests, and the incentive of businesses to stay in business and thrive, do we really need so much costly regulation?

  2. Joe Barnett says:

    Competing marketplace standards and certification agencies are an an alternative to government health and safety regulation, as an NCPA study by economist Noel Campbell demonstrated.

  3. H. Sterling Burnett says:

    Though not specific to small businesses, the growth in number, scope and economic impact of regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has exceeded almost every other agency and department. Just this week, five rules were identified, each of which would create unemployment and impose more than $1 billion upon the economy.
    In the face of continuing bad news on the jobs front and Congressional pressure to reduce the regulatory barriers to job creation, President Obama has directed the EPA to withdraw its pending change to Ozone standards. This rule was expected to top $90 billion annually — an estimate from the Obama Administration.
    The President should be applauded for this move, but the public should not relax since this may only be a temporary reprieve. President Obama has noted that the EPA is set to revisit this standard. When? In 2013, after the election.

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