Tattoo Epidemic Raises Health & Safety Questions

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The Law Of... gaining compensation for unsafe tattoo

The UK is in the midst of a tattoo epidemic; the number of tattoo parlours in the country has increased by 137% since 2004 and one in five of the population sport some form of ink – this number rises to one in three for young adults.

Tattoo Epidemic Raises Health & Safety Questions

With the tattoo craze looking unlikely to stop any time soon, there are questions to be asked about the guidelines managing safe practices amongst tattoo artists and Anna Thompson – Associate Solicitor on Simpson Millar's Personal Injury team – explains how some of her clients have been injured by a negligent tattoo artist.

Guidelines For Artists

Reacting to the rising popularity in tattoos, the government published a tattoo and body piercing guidance toolkit, to ensure that practitioners are keeping their customers safe from unnecessary injury or infection.

Despite this toolkit, many practitioners continue with bad practices, inevitably resulting in members of the public being injured due to a poor standard of care.

Tattooists are regulated by the Local Government Act (LGMPA82), with part VIII of the 1982 Act dedicated to governing acupuncture, tattooing, ear-piercing and electrolysis.

Under this Act, tattooists are required to register with their relevant local authority, so that they can become licensed. The powers in this Act are adoptive, meaning that local authorities can choose which practices require registration.

An amended version of the Act, the Local Government Act 2003 (LGA03), established a framework that allows local authorities to create bylaws, which are designed to help local authorities to confirm the:

  • Cleanliness of a premises and the fittings used in tattoo parlours
  • Cleanliness of any registered persons (i.e. a tattoo artist), as well as any other persons assisting those registered persons
  • Sterilisation and routine cleansing of instruments, materials, and equipment used in connection with registered practices

Tattoo Injuries

While these regulations help, there are still many tattoo parlours and individual artists who are either unaware of the guidelines, or choose to ignore them altogether.

This comes with enormous risk to their customers, as the risk of infection and injury from poor practices at a tattoo parlour is incredibly high.

Basic hygiene practices can seriously decrease the likelihood of developing an injury or infection while receiving a tattoo and artists should always:

  • Wear disposable gloves, which they should change in between each appointment
  • Use new needles for each customer, to avoid spreading blood borne diseases
  • Display a health and safety certificate, alongside their license from the local authority


If you enter a parlour for a tattoo and notice that any of these basic practices are not being followed, you should leave and look for another tattoo artist.

Even in instances where a tattooist follows the most stringent health and safety rules, customers may find that their tattoo becomes infected; this can be caused by an allergic reaction, poor after care, or bacteria compromising the tattoo ink.

If you suffer an injury or infection following a tattoo you may be eligible for compensation, which can help your recover and ensure that you do not lose any earnings due to time taken off work to recover from the injury or infection.

Gaining Compensation For Bad Tattoos

Compensation can not only be sought for injury and infection following a tattoo and tattooists could be liable if they do not follow instructions and fail to deliver a tattoo requested by their customer.

While it can be difficult to prove, compensation can be sought in instances where a tattooist does not deliver the tattoo a customer requested, as this would amount to professional negligence, the best evidence of this is by comparing any images shown to the artist prior to the tattoo to the final tattoo.

Similarly, tattoo artists that produce sub-standard work, for example if they do not possess a reasonable level of skill to deliver quality work, compensation could be sought that will allow for a poor tattoo to be covered or rectified by an artist of a better standard.

Explaining the complexities of tattoo cases, Anna said:

"With the country in the grips of a tattoo epidemic it is concerning that many parlours and artists do not follow basic safety guidelines."

"Basic hygiene standards, such as using a new pair of gloves and a fresh sterilised needle for each customer, can reduce the risk of spreading blood borne diseases. In some extreme cases, poor hygiene has caused those receiving tattoos to develop HIV and hepatitis."

"While such extreme diseases are unlikely in the vast majority of cases, anybody considering a tattoo should research different parlours before booking an appointment and should always ensure that their tattooist is following government guidelines and health and safety regulations."

"At the same time, they should look at a tattooist's portfolio, to ensure that they have an adequate level of skill to deliver the tattoo that they want, as fixing or removing a bad tattoo can be an expensive, not to mention painful, process."

"Those who have had a bad experience in the tattooist's chair, whether that means infection and injury or simply receiving a bad tattoo, a compensation claim can mitigate any of the loss you suffer because of a tattooist's negligence."


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