SALT LAKE CITY — Richard Dohoney prides himself on health and safety standards in his downtown tattoo studio.
"We always try to stay head of everything they ask for us," he said of health department regulations.
Dohoney, who owns Big Deluxe Tattoo, is supporting legislation in the works on Utah's Capitol Hill that seeks to put tattoo and body art studios under uniform state health regulations. He has some concerns about pop up operations that are shared on social media, with artists who just purchased equipment off the internet and have little-to-no experience.
"The reason we know about it is because we’re fixing all this stuff," he said.
Dohoney said at best, it's "an oatmeal cookie" of a tattoo that was supposed to look like a portrait of grandma. At worst, it comes with a serious infection.
"All of a sudden your friends are covered in bad tattoo work and hopefully you don’t have staph or MRSA or something else as well, or hepatitis," he told FOX 13.
Big Deluxe Tattoo has been among a number of tattoo and body piercing studios who have been consulting with the Utah Department of Health on best practices that may appear in a forthcoming bill by Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard, R-North Salt Lake.
"There are many tattoo places that are using expired ink, or using unsanitary equipment and so this is really important for anything that has to do with skin and blood and microblading," she said in an interview with FOX 13.
Rep. Ballard is pushing for a uniform set of health and safety standards under the state. Right now, health regulations can vary by county.
"This is defining the different types of body art and allowing the Department of Health to oversee the sanitization part of their business," she said.
Rep. Ballard's bill was presented in October to the legislature's interim Health & Human Services Committee. But it didn't advance. Lawmakers on the committee expressed concerns that there wasn't enough definition, while others wanted to hear more from industry representatives. Rep. Ballard is expected to tweak the bill and bring it forward for the 2022 legislative session that starts in January.
Rep. Ballard said it is a matter of consumer health and safety.
"They expect to have sanitation policies and procedures in place. So this will help to solidify that for the public to feel safe," she said.
Dohoney said he does not want "over-regulation," nor is he trying to stifle competition by pushing for more hours of experience for artists and specific safety standards imposed. Other tattoo artists have been taking to social media to warn consumers to take steps to ensure they have a qualified artist.
Dohoney said anyone who goes to get a tattoo or a piercing should always ask questions to ensure a studio is using the best sanitization practices.
"Never be nervous or sheepish or reluctant to ask about sterility measures," he said. "They should always see the implements we use come out of brand new, sterilized packaging."