OSHA Compliance for Tattoo Parlors

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Tattoo parlors and artists are mandated by law to adhere to regulations for their own good and their clients. A lot of people are already aware of these regulations, and for good reasons they tend to choose compliant parlors rather than non-compliant parlors. Therefore, sticking to guidelines really helps tattoo parlors retain customers and stay in business.

All tattoo parlors must adhere to rules set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Tattoo parlors are subject to such regulations simply because the nature of their work literally involves shedding blood. Blood and many other body fluids are vectors of pathogens, notably ones that cause serious debilitating illnesses such as hepatitis B and C, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). This is the reason why there are stringent rules for tattoo parlors.

The main goal of these regulations is to prevent and reduce blood exposure generated during tattooing. Actually, these regulations are fairly easy to follow. Here are most important bits of these regulations.

Universal rules

Tattoo parlors and tattoo artists must observe universal precautions to all clients. During work, the tattoo artist must wear barrier gowns, gloves, goggles or eyeglasses and face shield to avoid contact and exchange of body fluids. The gloves and barrier gowns, in particular, must be changed after each client.

All implements that will be in contact with the client’s skin and blood must be of single-use, or can be completely sterilized.

All materials applied to skin of clients must be from bulk, commercially-packaged, single-use containers only. This applies to dyes or pigments used in tattooing. It must be stored in an area away from toilets or other areas with high-contamination levels.

Make sure to employ barrier protection whenever handling hazardous and sharps waste.

Floor plan requirements and rules for furnishings

There must be a separate work area and waiting area for the customers. The tattoo work area must be constructed to allow privacy to clients. The whole studio must be well-ventilated and have adequate lighting. The tattoo parlor must have a clean and working toilet and a utility sink.

The work area must have a clean sink and basin, with running cold and hot water.

The body art studio must be constructed in a manner that allows easy cleaning. For example, walls and ceilings must be light in color and the floors must not be carpeted (because it absorbs blood).

The furnishings in the tattoo parlor must be made of nonabsorbent, corrosive resistant and smooth material that is easily sanitized. This applies to work tables, countertops and chairs.

Each artist must have his or her own work tables, chairs and own set of cabinets for instruments, dyes and single-use articles.

Guidelines for sterilization and sanitation

Non-disposable devices and instruments must be first scrubbed in hot water and soap, and then sterilized in an autoclave.

Acetate stencils, if used, must be sterilized using an antibacterial solution after each use.

Paper stencils are for single-use only, and must be disposed in the hazardous bin after each use.

Markers used to draw designs onto the client’s skin must be single-use only.

A new and sterile tattoo needle must be used in each client. For safety, use forceps to attach and remove tattoo needle into the machine. Never manipulate the needle, clean or used, by hand.

Clean and single-use gloves must be readily available at the workplace. Gloves must be changed with each client, and when it’s punctured or cut. Used gloves must be thrown away in the hazardous waste bin.

The work tables and chairs must be sanitized with a bactericidal solution after each client.

Guidelines during and after tattoo procedure

Tattoo artists with diarrhea, vomiting, fever or rash or skin infections are not allowed to perform tattooing procedure.

Before starting the tattooing procedure, the tattoo artists must first inspect his or her hands for hangnails, cuts and sores. All cuts and sores must be bandaged, and fingernails trimmed, before tattooing.

All pieces of jewelry including watches and rings must be removed before tattooing.

Before the tattooing procedure, the tattoo artist must first wash his or her hands with warm water and antibacterial soap using a hand brush. Then, dry the hands using a blow drier.

The tattoo artist must first don intact disposable latex, or nitrile gloves and an apron, or smock. The tattoo artist must change or dispose of these after each use or when torn or punctured.

The needles and tattoo machine tubes must be of single-use only. Use new set of needles and tattoo machine tubes for each client, and after tattooing, they must be disposed in the sharps waste bin.

Only use single-use razors to shave the skin area, and they must be changed for each client. After use, these razors must be disposed in the sharps waste bin.

Tattoo artists may not smoke or eat in the body art studio.

Guidelines for waste disposal

All wipes and bandages must be disposed in the hazardous waste bin.

After the tattoo has been applied, the area must be washed with a single-use towel soaked in an antibacterial solution. Discard this towel into the hazardous waste bin.

Used gloves, ointment applicator, wipes and drapes must be disposed in the hazardous waste bin.

Bandages, wipes and exclusion drapes (if used) must be of single-use only and must be changed for each client. Used and bloody bandages, wipes and exclusion drapes must be disposed in the conspicuously-marked hazardous waste bin.

About waste bins in tattoo parlors

A separate bin for hazardous waste must be located at the workplace of the tattoo parlor. Do not dispose household waste in this bin.

Another separate bin exclusive for sharps must be located at the workplace of the tattoo parlor. The bin for sharps must be solidly built, has puncture-resistant and leakproof walls, and must have narrow mouth and sealable. The sharps bin must be conspicuously marked.

There must be a separate waste bin for household waste in the waiting area and work area. Never put hazardous waste and sharps waste in this waste bin.

Hazardous and sharps waste must be collected and disposed by a licensed contractor. Disposing waste contaminated with blood and sharps as household waste could land you in trouble. Save yourself from the trouble by having waste generated by tattoo parlors, specifically the hazardous waste and sharps, be disposed by a licensed medical waste disposal provider to make sure state and federal guidelines are followed.

1. HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis. CDC. Retrieved February 3, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/Populations/hiv.htm

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