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Facial Art by Jane
2942 N 24th Street #201
Phoenix, AZ 85016
602 952-7678

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    I serve clients from all over Phoenix, Tuscon, Cave Creek, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Paradise Valley, Peoria, Queen Creek, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe Arizona and from all over the United States.
Tattooing and OSHA:
How it applies to all of us!

By Jane Adler

I am unique, as I am a cosmetic tattooer for over a decade and am still a sole proprietor. However, I am an educator, authorized "OSHA Outreach Instructor" for Blood Borne Pathogens and exclusively use the manual method for all my tattooing. Does this all apply to me? In Arizona it sure does!

Educators need to lead by example and in the state of Arizona (H.B. 2679) all tattoo artists need to follow proper waste disposal. The focus of this article is a brief run down on what we all should be doing to protect our art we call home. State law for OSHA over rules federal law when applicable in your state. For example, many states like Arizona, California, Oregon, have a state OSHA, etc. If you do not have a state OSHA then you need to follow all BBP on a federal level 29 CFR 1910.1030. These rulings can be viewed at the official OSHA website.

OSHA follows the same rulings as the IRS to establish if you are in fact an employee. If an employer has even one employee then all BBP standards apply. Did you know if a sole proprietor is an LLC, then they are considered an employee? Here are some basic facts to think about; OSHA is federal law, State OSHA overrides federal OSHA, the CDC is recommendation not law and NIOSH is also recommendation not law.

"Bloodborne pathogens" means pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. This applies mainly to HBV, HCV, HIV, and TB. OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, does not apply to construction, agriculture or maritime. It does apply to all that do graphic tattooing, cosmetic tattooing and piercing.

The term "reasonably anticipated" contact means potential contact as well as actual contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials while performing a job task. Universal Precautions is an approach to infection control used to protect employees from exposure to all human blood and other potentially infectious materials.

Alternative concepts in infection control are called Standard Precautions. These methods define all body fluids and substances as infectious. These concepts are acceptable alternatives to Universal Precautions provided that facilities using them adhere to all other provisions of this standard.

OSHA's mission is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health. This really is a good thing and will set your art and shops on top of the food chain. Clients will talk about how clean and safe you are. From a financial point of view it is far more cost effective to be in compliance then to be on the wrong end of an inspection or worse a citation. This is not the kind of publicity that any of us want.

We all need to take annual BBP training unless a proven sole proprietor. Very few people in the tattooing and body modification world want to be told what to do. Times have changed. Let's change that mind set to being a good volunteer and think of our futures and the getting all the respect we strive for. The person conducting the training must be knowledgeable in the subject matter covered by the elements contained in the training program as it relates to the workplace that the training will address. OSHA does allow video or distance training, but employees still must have access to a "live" person (even if by phone or email) to answer questions. There must be an opportunity for interactive questions and answers with the person conducting the training session.

In the state of Arizona this is the general ruling. Is it being enforced, not really, but I would hate to see any one caught off guard. A tattoo needle and any waste generated in the creation of a tattoo shall be disposed of in the same manor as a medical sharp. The department of environmental quality in consultation with the department of health services shall establish by rule a safe method for disposal of tattoo needles and related waste. This means related trash goes in a labeled red bag and is tagged by a medical biohazard waste company. ADOSH (state OSHA for AZ) considers one drop of blood to fall under waste management disposal.

There are many little things we need to think about. Do you know were your fire extinguishers are? Are they being monitored monthly and inspected annually. Are your exits properly labeled and not limited to non-exits to avoid any confusion. Do you have a proper hand washing facility not in a public restroom with hot and cold water? Do you have a properly labeled blood spill kit and first aid station for all employees? We all need to have a properly labeled MSDS sheets book on all of our products and a current chemical inventory list. Are all labor related and OSHA posters properly displayed. Is your trash properly labeled for bio hazard and regular trash? Do you know if your state requires red bagging and or tagging? Do you need closed lidded trash containers? The less we have to use our hands the better chance of not contaminating. This also includes sinks.

Are employees being trained to take care of their skin? Non-intact skin like cracked knuckles, chapped skin or torn cuticles. Your skin is your first line of defense against contracting a preventable disease! Are we all working without jewelry that can perforate gloves and long painted finger nails that harbor bacteria. Remember that our skin is the largest organ of the human body.

All employees need to be trained. Even a shop's receptionist is at risk. Imagine a client has just gotten a tattoo and goes to the front desk and faints. They could crack their head open leaving other staff members at risk. Are we all using the proper gloves for a procedure? If tattooing with petroleum products it can erode your gloves. In that case "Nitrile" is best. All employers must provide all artists with PPE (personal protective equipment) like gloves, masks, goggles, aprons etc if warranted for a job task. What is your needle stick protocal? Do you have an exposure plan? If an employer has over ten employees than they need to file additional paper work and record keeping required by OSHA. Personally, I hate paper work. This is one of the reasons I still work alone.

If you have even one employee you must provide (free of charge) the HBV series of three shots. If an employee chooses not to get the shots, they can sign a declaration that the employer will keep on file declining the HBV inoculation. Currently, there are no shots given for HCV, hence the need to protect ourselves on a daily basis. Think how crazy this all is. In the 70's dentists and tattoo artists did not even wear gloves. We have really grown in knowledge since the early 80's and the HIV scare. Let's all respect this information and run with it!

Seriously, how we maintain our shops is crucial to the future of this industry. HBV can live for one week in dried blood or sputum, NIOSH says that HIV can live for up to 14 days and TB can live for months in dried blood, even though it is an airborne disease.

Another big oversight is we need to have a current "Eye Wash" station available to all employees. If OSHA ever comes to your shop they will also be looking at electric outlets etc. Can they just pop in? Yes! Is it rare? Yes, however, I know of many shops that have gotten in big trouble. If the EPA ever catches someone incorrectly disposing of a sharps container or procedure waste, rumor is fines can start at $10,000.00 a day. Ouch!

Please check all your clean rooms for proper methods of cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing needles or other related items. Tattooing is a clean sport not a sterile one. It is up to all of us to do the right thing. Are you using proper barrier protection on all beds and chairs were body or cosmetic tattoos are being performed. I use all disposable sheets, client drapes. A cool trick is get dental bib clips and cover them with coil clip cord covers, to keep client drapes in the proper position. If not they would have to be disposed of or autoclaved. I cover my rolling chairs with plastic trash bags. It is easy and cheap and it cuts down my chance of falling out of my chair, if I am trying not to touch them. Not that I am a klutz, Ha-Ha. Liquid sterilizing solutions (Glutaraldehydes), such as Metricide, Cidex, etc. have no place in tattoo or piercing as a substitute for heat sterilization and should not be used.


1. Have a written "Exposure Control Plan"

2. Use Universal Precautions or better at all times

3. Have all Hepatitis B vaccinations and or declinations of file for all employees

4. Proper engineering and work practice controls, such as sharps containers, etc.

5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

6. Annual employee training

7. Have a chemical inventory list

8. Current MSDS sheet book for all applicable products, like ink, pigment and topicals

9. Container labeling

10. Annual employee training

11. OSHA requires all employers to provide all worker's protection. Examples: gloves, masks, aprons, face shields, etc.

12. Lack of grounding

13. Overloaded circuits

14. Failure to mark disconnecting means of circuits (circuit breakers not labeled)

15. Exposed wiring

16. Improper use of flexible electrical cords and cables

17. OSHA 300 Log and Poster. This applies to any employer with 10 or more employees to collect and maintain injury and illness records. This must be done within 7 days of any illness or injury to an employee.

18. It is to be maintained annually

19. Flammable combustible materials

20. Ergonomic stressors and repetitive motion

21. Latex allergies

22. First Aid Stations and Eye Wash Stations

23. Workplace violence

24. Medical Waste Management, if applicable in your state

Effective Aug. 15, 2005, A.R.S. § 44-1342 requires a tattoo needle and any waste exposed to human blood that is generated in the creation of a tattoo to be disposed of in the same manner as biohazardous medical waste, pursuant to section 49-761. Senate Bill H.B. 2679, which created this requirement. This is for the state of Arizona. See the details of the law.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking, "who is this chick?" I am just a gal that wants to preserve and save this industry from any disgrace or bad press. A part of being self regulated is following the rules, so the government does not do it for us! If we are all active participants in protecting ourselves and clients, there is no need for an intervention from the legislators. Let's stop the scratchers together by being the best we can!

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