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Guidance for tattooists and skin piercers

Businesses and practitioners must ensure that treatments are carried out safely and hygienically. In addition to the byelaws, the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and other relevant regulations must be complied with.


If your business has employees you are required by law to have employers’ liability insurance. This will enable you to meet the cost of compensation should one of your employees make a claim for illness or injury as a result of their work.

You may also wish to consider obtaining public liability insurance which will cover you for claims made against you by members of the public. However, it should be noted that this may not automatically include cover for treatment.


All practitioners must be competent to perform the treatment being offered. This can be described as the combination of training, skills, experience and knowledge that a person has and their ability to perform a task safely.  

Practitioners are encouraged to complete a formal infection control course either as part of a professional qualification or on its own. A number of specialist courses eg infection control for tattooing, can be found through an online search. Training should be refreshed as needed and at least once every three years. 

Users of specialist equipment eg autoclaves, must also have adequate information, instruction and training to be able to operate equipment safely and effectively.

Infection control

We strongly recommend that practitioners familiarise themselves with the tattooing and body piercing guidance and implement the procedures described.

Guidance is provided on:

  • principles of infection control
  • hand hygiene
  • personal protective equipment
  • management of sharps and exposure to blood and bodily fluids
  • safe handling, storage and disposal of waste materials
  • cleaning and disinfection
  • decontamination requirements for equipment
  • equipment sterilisation standards
  • aftercare advice
  • first aid

It is not compulsory to follow the guidance but by following the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law.

Steam sterilisation

If you are using an autoclave to sterilise reusable tattooing or skin piercing equipment, it is essential that you have selected an appropriate type of autoclave for the items to be sterilised (eg solid/hollow, wrapped/unwrapped). Records should also be kept to demonstrate that sterilisation cycles have been completed successfully.  A self-assessment and decision-making tool and template autoclave daily record sheet are available in the Tattoo and body percing toolkit.

There are specific legal requirements which apply to pressure equipment such as autoclaves:

  • pressure equipment must be properly maintained
  • users must be given training in the safe operation
  • a written scheme of examination should be drawn up for the equipment by a competent person
  • the equipment must be examined by a competent person in accordance with the scheme of examination

Records of maintenance and examination should be kept on site for inspection. Further information about pressure system is available from the Health and Safety Executive.

Waste disposal

Records of clinical waste disposal should be kept on site for inspection. 

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