If you own or manage a tattoo and/or piercing studio, you are certainly aware that it is important to be mindful of the waste that is produced as your artists work with your clients. Many of those waste products are considered health hazards, since they are exposed to blood and other body fluids, and therefore require special handling under state and federal regulations. You are also certainly aware of how confusing those regulations can be. To make things a little easier for you, we’ve put together some tips on safe and compliant waste handling in the average tattoo/piercing parlor.
Know which waste products are considered regulated medical waste?
It is important for tattoo and piercing studios to know what waste products are regulated waste and should be separated from general trash during the course of their work. For the average studio, this includes two categories of waste, or waste streams.
The first is contaminated sharps, which includes items like used tattoo needles, piercing needles, or anything else that has the potential to puncture or cut the skin during handling. The second is biohazardous waste, which includes anything, besides sharps, that has been in direct contact with blood or body fluids, such as gloves, gowns and other protective equipment worn during tattooing or piercing sessions, paper towels, disposable wipes or cotton swabs used on clients, soiled bandages, ink caps and leftover inks and ointments.
Each of these waste streams must be separated into their own containers as they are discarded by artists. Sharps must be placed in a clearly-labeled, approved sharps container, which must be puncture resistant, leak proof on the sides and bottom, and have a lid that can be closed. Other biohazardous waste must be placed in an approved, leak proof and clearly-marked waste bin. This waste must then be sent to an approved medical waste handler for treatment and/or disposal.
Make proper disposal very convenient for workers
Making proper disposal easy for your artists is the best way to encourage safe and compliant handling and separation of regulated medical waste. Placing three waste bins – a sharps container, a biohazardous waste bin and a regular trash bin – at every workstation is a great way to start. Make sure they are very easy to reach for the artists as they work without being in the way. Posting reminders for staff, directly on the bins or near them, that detail exactly what should be placed in them can also make proper disposal easier to manage.
Your tattoo/piercing artists should be well-trained in the proper handling of medical waste for their own safety and the safety of your clients, as should any other employee who comes into contact with medical waste. Training is also important to protect the environment and to help ensure that waste handling in your establishment remains compliant with state and federal regulations.
Some forms of training are required under those regulations. These include OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens training for any worker who comes into contact with blood and other potentially infectious body fluids – artists and workers doing clean up after sessions, for instance. Other OSHA training that your employees should have include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Waste Handling and Classification Regulations training courses. State regulations also mandate training for employees in proper segregation, storage and transportation of medical waste.
Work with a solid, full-service medical waste provider
Working with a good medical waste provider may just be the most important step you can take to ensure safe and compliant waste handling. Choose a provider that is licensed in your state, is well-versed in all state and federal regulations on medical waste management, and offers compliance services, such as employee compliance training, waste disposal safety and compliance audits and, of course, convenient waste pickup and disposal services.