Proper Sharps Disposal for Tattoo Parlors


If you are a tattoo parlor owner, you need to make sure that you are in compliance with all medical waste disposal laws. Here is what you need to know about the proper disposal of needles used in the tattoo process.

Modern tattoo machines are equipped with one or more needles, which are designed for single use only. These needles repeatedly puncture the skin to deliver the ink into the dermis to make a tattoo pattern. Because they are designed for single-use only, several used needles may be generated every day. Used tattoo needles remain sharp and capable of causing puncture injuries, so they are classified as sharps.

In making a tattoo, the needle infused with ink is introduced in the skin just below the dermis. This creates a puncture wound. Several close punctures are needed to make a simple pattern for a tattoo. Modern tattoo machines have needles attached to a pneumatic engine or electric motor that drives the needle (or several needles) to make many punctures per second to make a tattoo. These needles are very sharp and often come in contact with body fluids, which may harbor disease-causing pathogens that may cause chronic infections like AIDS and hepatitis B. There is no way tattoo artist can know the medical condition or history of each client, so all used and unsterilized needles are considered biohazardous.

How to properly dispose used tattoo needles

Used and broken tattoo needles and other sharp waste items must be handled and treated separately from other types of waste. Since this waste is contaminated with body fluids and can cause injuries, it must be treated in a way similarly done to medical waste.

Here are some important points to know in handling tattoo sharps:

  1. Immediately dispose used tattoo sharps Needles and other sharps used in tattoos must be disposed immediately after use to prevent harm. Make sure that an appropriate disposal container is near the vicinity of the tattoo area.
  2. Use an appropriate container for sharps An appropriate container for tattoo sharps must be solidly-built and puncture-proof. This will securely contain the sharps. Choose a plastic container that has a narrow mouth with a screw, cap or lid cover, so the sharps will not spill when the container is toppled. Choose container that is leak-proof to prevent spillage of liquids.The container for sharps must be only filled to one-third of its capacity only – do not overfill to avoid risk of cuts and puncture wounds. The waste container for sharps must be clearly marked for fast and easy identification.

    Never clean the tattoo sharp disposal container manually or reuse them.

  3. Use proper way of handling sharpsDo not shear, bend, break or handle tattoo needles carelessly with bare hands. Remove needles from the tattoo machine using forceps or tongs. Do not recap used tattoo needles; if there is no other choice, use a one-hand technique (scoop the needle into the cap using one hand, then push the end of the cap against a hard surface for a tight fit). Waste containers for sharps must be completely sealed prior to disposal.

If you need help finding a proper medical waste disposal container, please contact a local medical waste disposal provider. Typically, medical waste must be handled by a licensed company in your state. Make sure you are in compliance with biohazards waste laws by reading up on local, state, and federal laws.

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