Tattoo Safety

Recently the Pennsylvania office of Auditor General called on the General Assembly and the Department of Health to regulate the tattoo industry. In his statement former Auditor General noted that there are no regulations related to tattoo parlors. This may have come as a shock to some people who believed the tattoo industry is already regulated in Pennsylvania.

It was a bit of a shock for me as well when I started my career in 2003. Without any regulation, many shops weren't taking enough precautions to keep their clients and artists safe. Some shop owners were dismissive of health concerns and saw the increased expense and effort of safety controls as a burden.

In the last decade, a lot has changed in the industry. There is more awareness, bolstered by media popularity and an increased acceptance of tattoos. The public is more informed, and they expect more from tattoo shops. Artists have better access to training and safer products.

As Auditor General Wagner also pointed out, many states have enacted legislation during this time. Some have stricter regulations than others, but in general they lay out minimum safety standards for the industry. It remains to be seen if Pennsylvania will be the next state to enact such legislation, but Kyklops Tattoo's philosophy has always been to stay ahead of the curve. That's why we familiarize ourselves with other state's regulations and follow OSHA standards for health and safety.

In order to provide a safe environment for both our clients and artists, Kyklops Tattoo employs a number of engineering and procedural controls. Engineering controls deal with the workspace, while procedural controls concern safe work practices. When designing our work areas we started from the ground up, referencing OSHA guidelines with safety as our top priority.

Important features of our work areas:

  • Smooth washable walls and floors
  • Dry storage drawers for packaged, sterilized equipment
  • Nonporous work surfaces (including stainless mayo trays on stands)
  • Hand washing sinks with hands-free faucets
  • Containerized (bag-in-box) soap dispensers
  • Hands-free towel dispensers
  • Foot-operated, lined waste containers
  • Wall-mounted, locked and labeled sharps containers (within arms reach)
  • Autoclavable solution bottles (for antiseptic wash)

Every tattoo shop should have a separate decontamination/sterilization room. Even though much of our equipment is disposable, there are items that necessarily become contaminated. This room is where we clean and sterilize contaminated equipment.

Features of our Decontamination/ Sterilization areas:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) area
  • Double swing/hands free door
  • Hand washing sink
  • Foot-operated, lined waste containers
  • Smooth washable walls and floors
  • Nonporous work surfaces
  • Separate scrub sink
  • Steam Sterilizer (autoclave)
  • Ultrasonic cleaning unit

Designing a safe work area is the first step, but sound work practices go further to ensure a healthy work environment. When we are doing a tattoo, our client’s health and our own health is at risk. We take our responsibility very seriously and follow strict procedures to minimize the risk. We stake our reputation on it.

All tattoo artists at Kyklops Tattoo:

  • Have their client complete an informed consent/release form
  • Don Personal Protective Equipment (Gloves)
  • Cover work surfaces and equipment with disposable barriers
  • Pour pigments into one-time-use containers
  • Disinfect procedure sites (skin) with antimicrobial skin prep
  • Use pre-sterilized one-time-use needles
  • Immediately disinfect work surfaces and equipment with registered HSDS
  • Provide post-procedure care instructions and answer questions
  • Refrain from tattooing minors
  • Refrain from tattooing individuals who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Having the right sterilizer isn't enough; safe handling and processing in the decontamination/sterilization area ensures that equipment is properly sterilized.

Our equipment processing procedures include:

  • Transporting contaminated equipment in covered autoclavable containers
  • Donning disposable PPE, including gloves, sleeves, aprons, and face shields
  • Scrubbing, placing in ultrasonic bath, drying, packaging, then sterilizing used equipment
  • Using indicators in each package and integrators in each autoclave batch
  • Marking each package with the date and batch number
  • Maintaining a log book with each sterilization cycle
  • Monthly testing autoclave with biological indicators at an independent lab
  • Having biohazardous waste removed by a medical waste disposal company

Much of the knowledge informing our engineering and procedural controls for safety is not exactly common sense. Education played a vital role in making Kyklops Tattoo a safe place to get a tattoo and a safe place to work. We credit Compliance Solutions International and Health Educators Inc. whose Blood Bourne Pathogen classes were the foundation of our training—one that we have built upon and continue to strengthen with ongoing training and experience.

We do all of these things and more (like carry industry-specific professional liability insurance and keep client forms private) at Kyklops Tattoo to protect our clients. Precautions like these can help give you peace of mind when your getting a tattoo at our shop. After all, you'd probably rather be thinking about the details of your new tattoo than worrying about shop safety.

We believe that the combination of a carefully designed workspace, procedures, and training make Kyklops Tattoo the safest-possible place to get your tattoo. Whichever shop you choose, be sure they take steps to protect you. It's in your best interest to educate yourself and ask questions.

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