Health & Safety

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Unregistered Tattoo Parlour Danger

10 January 2014

The Local Government Association and Environmental Health Officers have issued a strong public warning regarding an emerging problem with illegal, unregistered tattoo artists working from unregistered premises.

Neon Tattoo Studio Sign

Unlicensed tattooists and parlours continue to operate across the country in an unscrupulous bid to cash in on the growing popularity of body art but by using them, people looking for a cheap tattoo run the real danger of picking up a serious infection or permanent scarring from botched procedures that are often delivered by dangerous imposters.

The organisations warn it's simply not worth the risk. The tattoo may be cheap but disfigurement or a life-changing health condition could be the final price paid. Only legitimate, licensed, registered tattoo parlours, meeting strict standards, registered with the local authority by law, should be used. Anyone who has visited an unregistered tattooist is urged to to seek medical advice from their GP and report the parlour to their local authority.

Enforcement Action

Councils and the Police are continuing a crackdown on illegal, unregistered parlours to continue shutting them down and prosecuting the perpetrators. Unlicensed tattooists face a prison sentence of up to two years and unlimited fines with local authorities able to seize and destroy equipment under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Increasing Popularity of Tattoos

Tattoos continue to rise in popularity with around 29 per cent of Britons aged between 25 and 34 said to have one or more. There are now more than 1,500 registered tattoo parlours in the UK and most towns and cities have them in their district. This trend may be fuelled by the increasing popularity of tattoos among celebrities which encourages more young people to have tattoos.

Risk of Infection

Unfortunately there has also been an increase in the number of unregistered tattooists. These pose a real danger to public safety, with those who use them putting themselves at risk of contracting serious infections such as Hepatitis, Septicaemia or HIV. The public are often tempted away from registered tattooists by cheap prices and cut-price deals offered by illegal operators. These often work out of residential properties, garden sheds and pubs or advertise home visits on the internet. Unregistered tattooists are frequently found to use substandard equipment and inadequate sterilisation. They are also less likely to check medical history and the age of the customer (as to have a tattoo you have to be over 18 years old). By seeking out a bargain, the public are exposing themselves to a risk of a serious skin infection or a blood borne virus. In addition the tattoos are often of poor quality due to the lack of training of the tattooist or the inks used may not be suitable for tattooing.Important Checks

Local Authorities regulate tattooists and their premises to help maintain effective controls but with a little common sense there is also a lot that individuals can do to reduce the risks. Before an individual has a tattoo, they should always check the following:

  • The establishment should be registered with the local district Council. The Council will hold a list of registered tattooists which can be checked out with a simple telephone call or e-mail. Also, many now make the list of registered tattooists available on the Council's website. If in doubt ask to see the tattooist's registration certificate.
  • Ask to see examples of the person's work.
  • Ensure that you have read and signed a consent and medical form.
  • Make sure tattoos are done with new needles. If you don't see the needle removed from a sealed package, don't allow the tattoo to be done.
  • Check that a proper tattoo ink is being used and that it is sterile at the start of your treatment.
  • The tattoo artist should always wash their hands and put on a fresh pair of medical- type gloves before each new procedure.
  • Ensure that you are given advice on the aftercare for your tattoo.

If an individual considering having tattoo work undertaken has any concerns they should leave the premises and report their concerns to the Local District Council. It should be noted that the registration only covers the safety practices of the premises and is not an indication of the quality of the tattooist's work. If members of the public are aware of persons carrying out unregistered tattooing, they should contact the District Council as unregistered tattooists are putting the public at risk. Any concerns of under-age tattooing (Under 18) should be reported to the Police on Telephone number 101.