Ensuring Safe Body Art Through Permitting and Inspections in Santa Clara County

December 3, 2018
Prior to California adopting Assembly Bill (Safe Body Art) in 2011, Santa Clara County showed early initiative by adopting a 2006 local ordinance to regulate body art through permits and inspections for both Body Art facilities and  practitioners.  In fact, majority of the Assembly Bill 300 was based on the County's initial ordinance.
Whether for individual expression or sentimental reasons such as honoring a loved one, every tattoo tells a unique story for the individual and body art is more popular than ever.  Other forms of body art growing in popularity include piercing and permanent cosmetics.  For more details on the entire body art program, visit the website.
According to a 2015 Harris Poll, about 3 in 10 (29%) people surveyed have at least one tattoo. A growing number of young people are choosing to get tattooed and 22% of millennials aged 18 to 24 reports having at least one.  Older millennials are even more likely to have a tattoo.  Statistics show that 30% of those 25-29 years old and 38% of adults aged 30-39 have some form of permanent body art. Nearly 30% of 40-49-year-olds have at least one tattoo, as do 11% of seniors between 50-64.
When State Assembly Bill 300 became law on October 9, 2011, the Safe Body Art Act began requiring Body Art facilities and practitioners to obtain permits and undergo inspections statewide. These efforts were made to help reduce the risks of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and skin infections. The County of Santa Clara's Department of Environmental Health (DEH) is tasked with handling the administrative enforcement for the general public.  A team of Registered Environmental Health Specialists (REHS) conducts routine and complaint-driven inspections.
The most frequently cited violations are in the category of “Inadequate prevention of cross contamination,” which was cited 23 times in 409 inspections during 2018.  A lack of non-stick sterile pads, improperly disinfected surfaces, not washing hands, and not using drape clothes or aprons between clients are some of the primary violations in body art facilities.  
The REHS inspectors in the Solid Waste Program (SWP) conduct annual inspections of facilities and practitioners.  With over 500 active body art permits in Santa Clara County, the Environmental Health Department dedicates many hours educating the body art industry regarding the prevention of infections and blood borne diseases. 
Body Art Violations Type Count (2018)
Inspection Count by Facility & Practitioner  (2018)

Infection Prevention and Control Plans (IPCP) are written documents establishing safe body art procedures and best practices. All practitioners must implement IPCP’s to minimize the spread of diseases and to protect the public’s health and safety.  Each practitioner must go through the registration process with the local enforcement agency (DEH) to obtain a practitioner registration certificate. Records are kept by each practitioner for at least 90 days and reviewed by Santa Clara County DEH SWP.  These records include informed consent forms, client history forms, instrument purchase/usage logs, and sterilization logs. Routine inspections for Body Art facilities and practitioners reduce the risk of infections which may occur through improper body art practices. 
It's easy in Santa Clara County to identify safe and permitted body art facilities and practitioners since they are required to display the County-issued permits and carry the County's Body Art ID card.
To view a list of facilities and practitioners currently holding a valid (non-expired permit),  you can click here to access the County of Santa Clara's Body Art Permitted Facilities and Practitioners Report.
As body art gains more and more mainstream acceptance, the importance of routine inspections assure proper health and safety procedures are followed by each facility and its practitioners. Thus providing a safe and secure environment for the community at-large.