OSHA / freehand piercing?

Returning from many discussions at the 15th annual APP conference, one of the subjects that lingered in my mind was an interpretation of traditional and modern piercing practices. I don’t believe that I would have ever chosen to describe my practice as “freehand” piercing. The more I hear it the term, the more distaste I seem to feel for it. It seems a disrespectful and condescending way to describe a common practice of body decoration that began before the written alphabet with little more than an adornment, a sharp object, basic antisepsis and good aim.

It seems evident that traditional ear, nostril and other body piercing practices did not involve modern instruments as they evolved over our collective history. Notable inventions such as the katiputan for a particular type of self-piercing and a few other devices in the sharps category such as needles and blades have found utility, but in most cases the goal may still be achieved by simpler means.

I believe that I will return to this topic in depth at a later date, as it continues to bother me in a similar way as when I hear “gauges” as slang for enlarged piercings.

1 thought on “OSHA / freehand piercing?”

  1. From: http://www.osha.gov/

    • Standard Number: 1910.1030; 1910.1030(d)(2)(i)

    December 8, 2005

    Mr. David Vidra, CPLN, MA
    Mr. Kris Lachance-Peters
    Vice President
    Health Educators, Inc.
    515 E. Grand River Avenue, Suite F
    East Lansing, MI 48823

    Dear Mr. Vidra & Mr. Lachance-Peters:

    Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs regarding the applicability of OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) to the "freehand" body piercing technique. Your question is restated below, followed by OSHA's response. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence.

    Scenario: A "freehand" piercing technique is one where the practitioner uses his or her hands as the piercing instrument instead of piercing forceps. In this procedure, the practitioner's fingers are placed in close proximity to the cutting edge of the needle as it exits the piercing site.

    Question: Does OSHA view the practice of "freehand" piercing without the use of forceps and a receiving tool (cork or tube) as safe for the practitioner performing the procedure?

    Reply: The practice of "freehand" piercing without the use of forceps or other available engineering and work practice controls to prevent contact with the used end of the piercing needle violates 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(i), an important provision of the bloodborne pathogens standard which requires that engineering and work practice controls shall be used to eliminate or minimize employee exposure.

    In a previously published letter of interpretation, OSHA wrote:

    "When an employee has exposure to a contaminated sharp and engineering controls (e.g., sharps with engineered safety features) are not available, hazard control is primarily gained through the implementation of work practices. In order to best protect an employee from an injury with a contaminated needle, minimal manipulation of the needle serves as means of control." [Vidra, 8/19/03]

    Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at 202-693-2190.


    Richard E. Fairfax, Director
    Directorate of Enforcement Programs


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