Tattoo artists to face new guidelines

Tattoo artists to face new guidelines

City Hall plans to issue guidelines to set a minimum standard of quality and hygiene for 4,000 tattoo artists in Bangkok, following a 20-year campaign to have their work recognised as a profession.

The move comes after the city called on tattooists last week to comply with the law after discovering only 50 tattoo parlours were legally registered.

Professionally, the city's Medical Service Department chief Thaweesak Lertprapan said these artists have the right to receive recognition for their work, like other professionals.

"We should take their careers more seriously, though that doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to get professional certificates," he said yesterday.

City Hall had earlier discussed with the Department of Health what was needed to regulate tattooing as a proper career, but found the job does not meet the criteria set by the Medical Council of Thailand. This means tattooists are not eligible to receive qualification certificates like those presented, for example, to doctors.

Neither are people who are adept at making mystical patterns related to traditional beliefs, or sak yan. Their work is also not considered a medical service, even though the practice involves using needles and colour painting on the body, which requires rigid hygienic standards.

However, Mr Thaweesak said, city officials need to take action to introduce industry standards, not only for safety reasons but also for reliability and to create a better image of the service as it gains in popularity, especially among foreign tourists.

"A recent survey found up to 4,000 tattooists are working near tourist spots in Bangkok," notably in Khao San Road in the city's old quarter and the Nana area located on crowded Sukhumvit Road, he said.

His department yesterday called a meeting with agencies under the Public Health Ministry, including the Department of Health, Food and Drug Administration, to come up with appropriate measures to help boost the image of tattoo artists.

The most important task is to set acceptable standards regarding the use of needles and other equipment as well as the abilities of tattooists, Mr Thaweesak said.

In the meeting, it was suggested that City Hall enforce existing public health ordinances which set strict rules on certain activities to protect Bangkokians against health hazards.

There are at least six requirements that can be applied to tattoo artists, Mr Thaweesak said.

Their work space must be located indoors and be clean; all types of equipment, including needles, must be safe; only colours for tattooing are allowed, with clear labelling of chemicals used and who manufactured them; safety equipment related to work environment must be in place; contaminated garbage, such as that with bloodstains, are to be separated from general refuse and tattooists are required to have adequate hygiene knowledge to prevent infection.

Tattooists not only need to make sure their services meet proper standards but that "they themselves must be healthy", Mr Thaweesak said.

His department is preparing to hold discussions with the National Association of Thailand Tattoo Artists to gauge their responses to the proposed standards by the end of this month.

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