Tattoo shops are a type of personal service establishment. Because the procedure for a tattoo requires penetrating the skin to insert ink this is considered a high risk activity. High risk means there is a greater chance of spreading a communicable disease or of infection. Due to this high risk activity, tattoo parlours are routinely inspected by Environmental Health Officers.
Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) work with these establishments to ensure a safe and clean environment for their clients. During PSE inspections, EHOs are looking for things like an adequate supply of water, good separation of clean and dirty tools, proper sanitizers, proper sterilizing procedures and the use of single-use-only implements where appropriate or required. These elements demonstrate that the operator of any type of facility is making every effort to reduce or eliminate potential health hazards.
If you are choosing to get a tattoo there are some things you should look for or ask the operator about prior to beginning the procedure:
- Cleanliness – If a facility is not clean to the naked eye it may indicate instruments are also not being cleaned properly
- Handsinks – There should be a handsink with soap and paper towel nearby and anyone performing a service should wash their hands before beginning any work
- Has the facility been inspected?
- Does the facility have written sanitation procedures?
- What risks are associated with the procedure, and how does the facility minimize or eliminate those risks?
- What after care will be necessary? (You should receive verbal or written instructions on how to care for things like a new tattoo or piercing.)
- How are instruments sanitized/sterilized? Does the establishment use single-use instruments from sterile packaging? Is an autoclave used, and has it been tested recently for bacterial growth?
- Are any needles single-use? (All needles, ink and other materials that cannot be properly sanitized must only be used on one client, then discarded, even if the tattoo application will continue on another day.)
- How will your skin be prepared for the procedure? Will it be properly cleaned and disinfected, or even shaved before a procedure begins?
If you have any concerns about a tattoo parlour or other Personal Service Establishment contact your local Environmental Health Officer