Last year I learned that Public Health Ontario (PHO) had a project on the go of revising the outdated “2009 Infection Prevention and Control Best Practices for Public Service Settings” in Ontario. I was approached by a local public health inspector about potentially reviewing the draft and asking for my feedback. As a piercer, studio owner and an instructor within the body art community, I happily obliged hoping that I may join other practitioners in playing a key part on reviewing the potential guidelines and implementing changes if needed. As there are 36 separate regions across Ontario, each region following these guidelines, I was under the impression that numerous tattoo artists and piercers were partaking in this new development within each region. I eventually learned this was not the case.
When I actually learned of the project, it had already been completed and the rough draft was in the hands of 36 different regions. Each region was asked to provide any minor revisions and to submit them to Public Health Ontario within a specific deadline. I met up with a local public health inspector at this time and provider her my feedback. Between the three piercers in my area, and her input, we submitted 16 pages of potential changes to be revised. These changes could be anything from removing outdated information, re-wording, re-defining, challenging them to do more research in certain areas.
All 36 regions had the opportunity to provide their revisions and concerns and I looked forward to hearing about the next step…but I heard nothing. I thought many of us respectful tattooers and piercers would have been contacted considering it was a large revision for the Public Service Settings. I’ve since learned that I haven’t been able to find any other practitioner that has spoken directly with Public Health Ontario in regards to these matters.
After the revisions were submitted to Public Health Ontario in the Fall of 2016, no one, including many regional public health inspectors, have heard of anything since. However the rumours have started within our industry that new regulations are about to be enforced. This struck me as odd since I haven’t heard of anything yet and I decided to investigate a little.
I was recently invited to the Durham region Public Health Unit to present a class on “Guidance within the Body Art Community”. Through my discussions with many public health units, the need for their updated information within our industry is long overdue. For the first time ever they were looking for a class dedicated to helping them understand our industry/community more now than they have in the past. I was excited to build a class using Progressive Mentorship as a platform to hopefully present some much needed information to inspectors to help make our inspections a lot less frustrating for both parties. They admit that they’re nervous and intimated to walk into our studios with the limited knowledge that they have about the body art world and I was on the mission to help them, so in turn, they can help us.
The class was a success with 60 inspectors showing up representing over 7 different regions. Representatives from Public Health Ontario even showed up, as well as one individual from the Ministry of Health Ontario. It was quite a turn out and I now had a platform to voice some of my concerns about these apparent new regulations that no one has even seen or heard of within our own industry.
On our lunch break I started questioning the numerous people in the crowd about their roles within Public Health. It took awhile but I was finally introduced to the rep from the Ministry of Health. She had recently taken on this new role and has yet to see the draft or revisions. It seems as though whoever had started this project the previous year has recently moved on to a different department leaving a lot of unfinished work in the hands of new people. This was the common thread amongst many of the people I spoke too. Public Health Ontario had admitted they have seen the revisions however they’re not close to finishing the project anytime soon. In my opinion it seemed as though no one was ready to take the blame, or take on the challenge of moving forward. Many of the regional inspectors voiced their frustrations as well since they base their inspections off of these guidelines and many regions are doing things a lot different. All they want is a unified document that all inspectors could adopt and follow.
Where does that leave us, the tattoo artists, the piercers, the business owners, trying to read the minds of the Ontario government of how we should conduct our business? How come we weren't involved more? Why didn’t any of us know these new guidelines were even being considered? Why are there 36 regions with just as little knowledge about this completed project as we are?
I encourage you to reach out to your local public health unit and ask them to stand up to their superiors. Ask them to question the next steps on how to get us all on the same page. It’s about working together and not allowing the Ministry to just implement guidelines without even talking to the industry they're writing about. Where is the respect? Why were we not informed and brought into meetings to discuss potential changes about our own industry? You'd think they would want our input right?
I strongly believe in “Conversation vs. Confrontation”. With the right conversations we can move forward in the right direction. Many practitioners admit there must be some sort of guidelines within our industry before our clients or ourselves get hurt. It’s about learning together and starting a conversation. Let’s try and reach to those inspectors that want to see a positive change and try to connect, build trust, build relationships. In the meantime I’ll update anyone if I hear of any movement from the Ministry or Public Health Ontario.