Leading safety in tattooing and piercing industry

It was cleaner than a doctor’s office.

That’s what WorkSafeBC industry specialist Lorne Scarlett said about the hygiene level he saw at Westcoast Piercing and Ink, where he was invited to check out the safety of their operations.

Image from westcoastpiercing.com

Image from westcoastpiercing.com

Hygiene is the biggest issue — and Westcoast aims higher than what’s required by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. Company owner Kelly Brookes says he wants to see higher hygiene standards overall in his industry, which he’s been part of for 20 years.

Kelly says that as it is, our laws and their enforcement are lacking and he is frustrated. He says that without adequate regulation, consumers are at risk of unsafe practices and our health care system is burdened with the need to pay for treatment of infections and disease transmission.

“We want to make sure that the general public is kept safe and, we’re also looking at the internal aspect to make sure that all the work parties are safe,” Kelly said.

“When you’re looking at new people coming into the industry or at people who are the old schoolers who have not kept themselves educated, there are certain things that absolutely must be put into place.”

Guidelines on hygiene for tattooing and other personal services vary by province. In BC, we have Guidelines for Tattooing and Guidelines for Personal Service Establishments that cover piercing.

“It says ‘We recommend this, we advise that’ – but there’s no ‘You have to do this,'” Kelly says, describing what he sees as lacking in the existing guidelines. “To me, I’m looking at a lot of this stuff going ‘No. That’s a simple no. That’s not even up for question.'”

Julie Green, Manager/Piercer, working in the clean room at Westcoast Piercing and Ink

Julie Green, Manager/Piercer, working in the clean room at Westcoast Piercing and Ink

Westcoast is getting ready to do the Certificate of Recognition program (COR) with goHR. Employers earn COR by documenting and presenting aspects of their safety management systems, like worker engagement, inspections, training, incident investigation, safe work procedures, and much more. Then they present it all at an audit, and hopefully earn COR.

Eileen is the HR/payroll person at Westcoast. She’s gathering documentation and working with staff to get ready.

“We’re getting them up to speed on basic requirements, like muster stations, fire drills, and emergency situations,” she said. “But as far as health and safety standards go, we’re well beyond what’s required.”

Westcoast uses a hydrim, which Kelly says is half the size of a household dishwasher and thirty times the price. They also have two autoclaves for sterilizing, and there’s much more I could tell you about the super high-tech system Kelly described to me, but it won’t be now.

If you are considering a tattoo or piercing, check out this guide from HealthlinkBC Tattoo and Piercing Safety. It includes questions to ask before you choose a studio.

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1 thought on “Leading safety in tattooing and piercing industry

  1. Dana

    As an employee of Westcoast Piercing and Ink, I can verify everything in this article. Kelly is the BIGGEST stickler I have ever met, as far as health and safety standards go, and he/we always EXCEED the standard at our shop. Hands down the cleanest, safest, and most well put together shop I’ve worked at both in Canada and internationally.


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