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Operator Services

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Body Piercing

printable fact sheet for operators

What is the health risk? 

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

Ear piercing guns and studs should not be used for body piercing.  Piercing guns crush delicate tissues, causing trauma to the body and increase the risk of infection.

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 body piercing.

  • Thoroughly wash hands before and after each client using liquid soap and warm water and use disposable paper towel.
  • New, single-use, disposable gloves must be worn for each client and discarded after each client.  Wash hands before and after using gloves.
  • Discard needles immediately after use into a labeled sharps container. Never overfill, empty or touch the contents of a sharps container.
  • 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 pre-packed, pre-sterilized, single-use and disposed of immediately after use in an approved sharps container. 
  • Use sterile jewelry suitable for the piercing site.
  • If piercing needles or jewellery is made or modified by a piercer prior to use, it must be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner, packaged and sterilized using an approved sterilizer.
  • An approved sterilizer must be on-site for sterilization of instruments and equipment and must be properly monitored to ensure it is working.
  • If marking the piercing site, the skin should be cleaned with a skin antiseptic, such as 70% alcohol, then marked with an iodine felt tip pen. After the mark has dried the site should be cleaned for a second time, just prior to piercing.
  • If surface anesthetic is used it must be applied using a disposable swab before the use of skin antiseptic.
  • Re-usable equipment, such as forceps, must be cleaned with soap and water and then sterilized, using an approved sterilizer, and individually packaged prior to use.
  • Dermal punch tools must be sterile, single-use disposable items and must be disposed of in an approved sharps container immediately after use.
  • Close-ended receiving tubes must be sterile, single use and disposable. Open ended receiving tubes can be cleaned using a wire brush and then sterilized after each use.
  • Corks used to “catch” the needle must be discarded in the sharps container with the needle attached.
  • Clean and disinfect all non-disposable equipment including headrests, worktables and chairs between clients using a low level disinfectant, such as 1 tsp of bleach with 10 cups of water and given 10 minutes of contact time.
  • No food or drink is allowed in the piercing area.
  • Provide your client with verbal and written information on body piercing aftercare.
  • Keep client records and accidental blood and body fluid exposure records for five years and on-site for one year.

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

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Revised: Friday April 03 2020

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