Medical institutions such as V.A. run hospitals have come under fire recently for failure to follow appropriate sterilization protocols. Canada is receiving similar attention now in a consumer health scare that affects clients in a very different setting. A Mississagua tattoo parlor was recently investigated for failing to keep thorough records regarding the maintenance of its sterilization equipment. Health inspectors visited the business shortly after it opened in 2005. Over the next several years, no further contact was made. Officials from the health department state lack of resources as the cause for skipping a number of yearly inspections. Upon their second visit to MoonShin in February of 2009, inspectors were not satisfied with the minimal records presented regarding sterilizer maintenance.
The public health department advised approximately 3,000 of the company’s patrons to be tested for HIV and Hepatitis B and C. This is a precautionary measure according to associate medical officer Dr. de Villa who described the actual risk of infection as “small”. The tattoo parlor has now resumed business as usual after bringing their recordkeeping practices in line with the inspectors’ expectations. The owners of MoonShin have assured clients that all needles and clamps were thoroughly sterilized between uses.
This may well be the case since personal service settings are the focus of ongoing educational campaigns focused on proper health precautions. Also, this particular business did invest in the appropriate equipment to sanitize multi-use instruments. However, even if the correct cycle is run every time, there is no guarantee of adequate sterilization without regularly scheduled maintenance. The record keeping requirements for sterilizers are not a silly precaution. They are the only way to prove that these units are functioning correctly. Unless there is catastrophic equipment failure, there is no way to tell using the naked eye whether or not micro-organisms are actually surviving a heat/steam cycle. This makes analyses such as spore strip testing absolutely essential in the effort to keep clients safe from infectious diseases.
Poor Maintenance Practices A Frequent Problem?
A 2007 health scare involving another Canadian tattoo shop (Longhorn Custom Bodyart Studio) demonstrates the pressing need for better safety practices. Almost 2,000 customers were exposed to potentially unsanitary instruments. The parlor’s autoclave had apparently been malfunctioning for nearly a year. Frequent testing and accurate record keeping can prevent this type of problem from happening again. Health departments are meant to act as a back up in encouraging compliance. However, it is up to each business owner to ensure that standards are met regardless of the frequency of these inspections.
No company wants to find out about a problem with their sterilization equipment because a client becomes seriously ill. The costs of properly maintaining or even replacing an autoclave or sterilizer are minor compared with the legal ramifications of using improperly sterilized instruments. This is true no matter how small your business is. In fact, privately owned clinics, dental offices, veterinary practices, and tattoo shops are at the greatest financial risk. It only takes one lawsuit to put a small company out of business.
Protecting clients from harm isn’t just the right thing to do, it is an absolute necessity. Testing and maintenance programs go hand in hand with keeping accurate records. These practices provide the best protection for everyone involved. If you have reason to believe that your current sterilization equipment is not performing adequately, please read our free report to start your search for a cost effective replacement.