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Operator Services

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Tattooing

printable fact sheet for operators

What is the health risk? 

Instruments and equipment used for tattooing may become contaminated with blood or body fluids carrying blood-borne diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or other infectious agents such as bacteria or fungi.

You do not have to see blood or body fluids on instruments for an infection to occur.
Clean and disinfect or sterilize instruments between clients.
Both the worker and the client can develop or spread an infection during a tattoo.

  • Avoid tattooing within 6 inches of skin that is inflamed, infected or has a rash.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands before and after each client using liquid soap and warm water and use disposable paper towel.
  • Single-use, disposable gloves must be worn for each client and discarded after each client.  Gloves must also be discarded at breaks when treating the same client.
  • Wash hands before and after using gloves.
  • Once the tattoo has been completed, immediately discard used needles into a labeled sharps container.  Never overfill, empty or touch contents of a sharps container.
  • The needle bar and attached needles must be discarded in a sharps container immediately after use. Needles are not to be removed from the needle bar.
  • Do not discard sharps into the municipal garbage. Sharps containers must be picked up by a licensed biomedical waste hauler.
  • Get vaccinated. Hepatitis B vaccination is strongly recommended.
  • Needles must be single use, sterile and disposable. Needles can never be reused, even on the same client.
  • Needles and needle bars prepared by the artist, along with the barrel/grip, must be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner and then sterilized prior to use.
  • An approved sterilizer must be on-site for sterilization of instruments and equipment and must be properly monitored to ensure it is working (refer to Region of Peel Sterilization fact sheet).
  • If skin must be shaved, single-use, disposable razors must be used and immediately discarded into a sharps container after each client.
  • Clean skin with an antiseptic, like 70% alcohol, using a clean disposable swab.
  • Use a skin antiseptic to stick stencils onto skin.  Deodorant sticks are not recommended.  Stencils must be discarded after each client.
  • No food or drink is allowed in the tattooing area.
  • Single-use applicators must be used to dispense all creams, lotions or ointments.  Do not “double dip” as this can cause infections.
  • Tissues, wipes and jelly should be dispensed prior to starting each service.  Any unused items or portions must be discarded after each client.
  • Disposable ink caps must be cleaned with soap and water and then disinfected with an intermediate level disinfectant, like 70% alcohol and given 10 minutes of contact time, and discarded after each client.
  • Reusable ink caps must be cleaned with soap and water and then sterilized between clients. 
  • After the procedure cover the tattoo with an individually packaged dressing intended for covering wounds.
  • Equipment, such as light fixtures and parts of the tattoo machine, that cannot be cleaned and disinfected or sterilized must be covered with a single-use plastic wrap and changed between clients.
  • Work surfaces, such as chairs and tables, must be cleaned and then disinfected using a low level disinfectant, such as 1 tsp of bleach to 10 cups of water and given 10 minutes of contact time, after each client. 
  • If surfaces become contaminated with blood or body fluids, a high-level disinfectant must be used, such as ¼ cup of bleach with 2 ¼ cups of water and given 10 minutes of contact time.
  • Keep client records and accidental blood and body fluid exposure records for a minimum of five years and on-site for one year.
  • Provide clients with verbal and written information on tattooing aftercare.

Adapted from and used by permission of the Durham Region Health Department and Toronto Public Health



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Revised: Friday May 06 2011

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