The most important aspect of running a great tattoo studio is ensuring the safety of clients.
Things you can choose not to do in your tattoo studio:
- Use a rotary tattoo machine
- Tattoo cartoon characters
- Take personal checks
- Be open on holidays
- Offer everyone free coffee
- Allow Justin Bieber songs
Things you cannot choose not to do in your tattoo studio:
- Participate in rigorous safety standards
The more you care about safety, the more comfortable your clients will be and the better you'll sleep at night.
Keep in mind that safety goes both ways. You’re of course concerned about the safety of customers who come to your shop for a tattoo, but just as important is the safety of the artists themselves. Good safety practices benefit EVERYONE.
8 Steps to a Safe Tattoo Experience
You know must take safety seriously, but how exactly do you do that? Here are ten steps to making it happen.
- Get licensed
There are two kinds of licenses you need:
- Business license
- License to tattoo
Depending on where you live, each of these will be obtained in a different way through your local government. Some states don’t require a license to tattoo, but it’s critical that you find out if yours does. A business license comes from your local city or county. Both need to be on display in your shop for all to see, along with any inspections that are required by your local or state government.
- Get with OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a federal agency charged with keeping folks safe at the workplace. If you’re looking for guidance as to how to navigate safety, this is where you can go to find it.
The part that you want to be sure you’re up to date on and following is OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standards. It’s impossible to overemphasize this step. Keeping your employees and your clients safe from bloodborne issues is the central aspect of creating a safe tattoo experience. You don’t want to look back and realize that your neglect has led to someone’s lifelong illness.
- Get with the US Department of Labor
OSHA offers guidance on bloodborne pathogens, but so does the US Department of Labor. There are opportunities for training and certification in safety through this arm of the government that are incredibly worthwhile for tattoo shop owners. You’ll find tons of information here.
Take the time to go to some training and get certifications in safety practices. Prevention and education go hand in hand.
- Use a sharps box
Purchase a sharps box for all of the pointy and potentially pathogenic items that you use in your shop while you’re tattooing or piercing clients. This is included in the training and information from OSHA and the Department of Labor, but it’s worth pointing out again. Require everyone in your shop to use the sharps box, and never EVER dispose of objects like needles in the regular trash. No one wants to get poked.
- Insist on sterilization
This is so critical. There can be quite an investment in materials like an autoclave, boxes of glove, disinfectant and equipment that’s capable of proper sterilization, but it’s worth every penny. Don’t skimp on the tools that are necessary for keeping your equipment sterilized and free from pathogens. Again, this is something that cannot be overstated.
Be sure to schedule time between clients for equipment sterilization. Ensure that your artists have the time that they need to make sterilization a priority.
- Get a signed waiver from every client
This isn’t just to prevent you from being sued.
Your waiver should include questions that are important for the safety of your client and your artists like allergy questions, disclaimers about medical and skin conditions, and medication interactions. You cannot legally ask someone about their HIV-AIDS status or the status of any other health condition, but you can warn them about the risks associated with these conditions through your waiver.
Realize that you are the expert here and that clients are looking to you for guidance about their health and safety through the process. A waiver is a major piece of that communication.
- Always verify the age of clients
This should be on your waiver, but you should always verify with an ID that your client is of legal age to get a tattoo or has the consent of a parent as required by the laws of your state or municipality.
Don’t take someone’s word for it – obtain verification. Again, this isn’t just to keep you out of hot water with law enforcement, it’s also a critical safety step.
- Don’t tattoo intoxicated customers
There’s the obvious problem of a person who is intoxicated not being able to legally consent to getting a tattoo, but there are safety issues as well. Alcohol is a blood thinner and can lead to out of control bleeding if a person has enough of it in their system.
Also, if a person is overtly affected by any kind of medication that impairs their ability to consent, don’t tattoo them. The can always come back to your shop when they’re not in a compromised position.
Safety is serious business. As the owner of a tattoo shop, you set the tone for how people act and how seriously they take safety procedures. It’s also you will be at fault if anything ever does go wrong. Don’t ever take a chance that something will by following rigorous safety procedures in your shop every time. That starts with training and ends with diligent procedures that are established within your business.
Offer praise and encouragement to your tattoo artists when the follow proper sterilization procedures. This is so important, because a cultivating a culture of safety within your shop will help you to make sure that you aren’t caught in a situation that you, your staff or your clients regret.