How Content Analytics Can Measure Health and Safety in Professional Licensing Requirements


In my recent article “Regulating Glamour”, I found that only about 25% of the training required for barbers and cosmetologists is related to health or safety. This is a notable claim; readers may want to know more about the method used to derive it. In this article, I discuss the methods used to produce these results. The article’s method relies on what’s called content analysis – to oversimplify, my content analysis was based on counting and analyzing words and phrases in manuals used by barbers , cosmetologists and manicurists.

Let me start with an explanation of state-required curricula for appearance professionals. Just as high school diplomas in many states require a certain number of hours of instruction under state law in English, math, history, etc., in many states a diploma in cosmetology requires a number of hours of instruction in areas such as haircutting. , shampoo, hair color and chemical hair straightener.

Consider the following two examples of how health and safety education might be included as areas of a cosmetology curriculum. When cosmetology students learn how to cut their hair, they usually learn how to do it safely (for example, you must clean and disinfect your instruments or you risk spreading disease); when cosmetology students learn to chemically relax hair, they usually learn how to do it safely (for example, you should not apply certain types of chemical relaxers to hair if it has already been colored with metallic salts, otherwise you can cause dangerous chemical reactions and break the hair).

The article’s calculations are based on a survey of each relevant chapter of three leading handbooks for appearance professionals that describe health and safety rules, practices, and concerns (the three handbooks that I have used occupy about three-quarters of the student market): it is probably uncontroversial to say that the health and safety rules and concerns that the textbooks describe for the haircut are sparse, brief, often intuitive and easy to remember; however, this is probably not true for the health and safety issues that the manuals describe for chemical relaxers, which are relatively extensive and abstruse (and, in a few cases, a bit alarming: under certain circumstances, misuse will cause smoke to emit or even hair to melt). This highlights what may be obvious: the curricula of different fields can be expected to contain different amounts or proportions of instruction that is relevant to health and safety.

How can you determine what part of the training in a particular area is related to health and safety? The methodology for this article includes an analysis of the content of the latest edition of these manuals to derive a health and safety rating for each area. In each case, I measured the part of the text that related to health and safety. (The assumption here is that the relevant text on a given domain is a reasonably complete account of the formal and theoretical aspects that students need to learn about that subdomain; perhaps a critic of this assumption could argue that there is no meaningful relationship between the textbooks’ content and what future appearance professionals need to learn, but this reviewer would probably struggle to explain why so many professional schools award and require a textbook.)

This measurement usually resulted in a ratio: for example, if an area was fully described in a particular chapter or sub-chapter in one of the manuals, a figure based on the length of concerns and instructions related to health and the security in this text was then divided by another number based on the length of the entire field text. So, for example, given a chapter that was about a particular area, if a fifth of that chapter was about health and safety issues, I would give it a 20% health and safety rating.

Assuming this is a reasonable methodology for providing an estimate of the health and safety portion of a personal appearance program, it follows that the number of hours of health and safety training for a given jurisdiction and subfield can be calculated: one simply multiplies the and security rating by the number of hours the jurisdiction devotes to training in that subfield to arrive at a training estimate, expressed as hours, in health and safety for this subdomain. For example (and to put it less formally), this method finds that health and safety issues make up just over 3% of the haircut chapter of the relevant manual. The significance of this is that if a jurisdiction’s cosmetology curriculum requires 100 hours of instruction in haircutting, the methodology of this article implies that a little over 3% of the instruction in the haircut – or 3 hours – is devoted to health and safety training.

This quantitative approach calculates the estimated share of health and safety training in the required set of personal appearance sub-areas for a given occupation and jurisdiction: this calculation is made by adding together all hourly health and safety training requirements. for that jurisdiction that are already derived, and then dividing that sum by the total number of hours required by the jurisdiction.

Although it can be argued that a significant degree of health and safety training is not well measured by content analysis, since such training sometimes takes place when performing seemingly rather than learning abstract propositions, this argument would have chilling implications for the training of appearance professionals. For example, cosmetology educators would presumably claim that all students in their schools receive sufficient training to perform a particular procedure safely before those students are ever asked to perform the same procedure on a human volunteer; such a claim would contradict the theory that students must perform cosmetic services on people in order to learn about health and safety.

Given some anecdotal accounts of actual student practice on volunteers, there is reason to believe that this method could routinely exaggerate the importance of health and safety training that such a practice entails. In particular, there is anecdotal evidence that some of the requirements that some cosmetology students must meet, with respect to the provision of cosmetology services to the public, are met whether or not a member of the public shows up at the venue. work to receive these services. In some states, in the event that no member of the public enters the workplace to receive cosmetology services, the training/education requirement may apparently be met if the cosmetology student does not provide any services and does not merely showing up at the workplace. The health and safety portion of these education/training hours would likely be zero.

Here’s another way to think about the accuracy of this method (more formally, we could think of the following as cross-checking validity). Consider a more detailed review of a health and safety rating, namely the haircut training that cosmetologists must undergo. Like most disciplines and professions, the practice of cosmetology requires the internalization of skill sets as well as propositional knowledge. Only a subset of the practical and theoretical knowledge that cosmetology requires relates to health and safety.

A summary of health and safety issues related to haircutting within the relevant 46 pages of the relevant textbook chapter – students should learn the proper cleaning, maintenance and disposal techniques for their haircutting instruments ; proper holding of instruments during use; good posture; and proper cutting techniques to improve safety. In the 24 jurisdictions that specifically require cosmetology programs containing a portion that focuses solely on haircutting, the average requirement for that portion is approximately 175 hours; the content analysis method of the article suggests that the health and safety training aspect required for such teaching would be between 5 and 6 hours. I invite the reader to determine to estimate, based on nothing more than common sense experience, how long it should take to teach the set of health and safety proposals and procedures for cutting hair summarized above – and, in particular, whether it should take significantly more or less than 5 or 6 class hours to convey this summarized information.

I’d be interested to hear from readers, in the comments, if they consider the article’s method for estimating the health and safety portion of job training on appearance to be well-founded – and, further, if they can think of a better method for this kind of measurement. And I’ll end by expressing my gratitude to Eugene Volokh both for letting me post some thoughts here and for providing many hours of fascinating reading over the years via the Conspiracy blog – and my hope that a few readers will find my posts as entertaining and valuable as I regularly find his.

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Jenny T. Curlee