Tattoo artists in Davis County could face tougher regulations, if a group of parlor operators get their way.
About one-third of the county's tattoo artists met with the Davis County Health Department this month to voice support for tighter standards and more inspections for tattoo parlors, including the possibility of requiring permits.
The restrictions are needed, parlor owners say, because it is too easy for an inexperienced artist to open a shop. The result: Dangerous practices and poor artistry that give the entire industry a bad reputation.
"We need to take steps to make sure our community and our industry thrive," said Kian Kupfer, owner of Six Feet Below Tattoo in Clearfield. "It's our responsibility to make sure our people are taken care of."
Kupfer and other shop owners dug into the details of tattooing at the health department workshop, discussing everything from autoclaves that sterilize equipment to the need for medical implant-grade jewelry for body piercings.
Casey Wardell, of Punctured Piercing and Tattoo in Bountiful, said many shops are going above and beyond the county's regulations by following industry standards. His shop runs weekly spore tests to check for mold, for instance. And Wardell has each client sign a sheet indicating the equipment has been sterilized.
Shopkeepers asked county health officials to provide industry-specific training on blood-borne pathogens, perhaps through a required class for those planning to work on tattoos or piercings. They also hope the Board of Health will approve a plan to test potential artists and issue yearly permits to ensure they are up-to-date on training. The process would be similar to that required for a food-handlers permit.
The recommendations will have to be taken before the Board of Health in February. There is no guarantee the board will sign off on more regulation, according to Dennis Keith, deputy director of environmental health.
It's unusual for industries to be asking for more regulation, rather than less, Keith said, but the proposal shows promise.
"We can improve public health and make it a benefit to the industry at the same time," Keith said.
Officials were quick to point out that while industry insiders may be concerned, there has been no public health threat from the current regulations, which are based on national standards.
The industry may also be doing some regulating of its own.
Jared Preslar, owner of Lucky Bamboo Tattoo, has begun the process to create a countywide or even statewide association of tattoo artists who agree to conform to industry standards. Preslar has lobbied the Utah Legislature to pass tighter laws regarding tattoos, but those efforts have not yet gained traction.