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COVID-19 Liability: A Legal Guide For Tattoo and Piercing Parlors

Woman who just received an upper arm tattoo

It’s no secret that giving a tattoo or piercing in the COVID-era is complicated when you have no choice but to get up-close and personal with your client. It’s a real social distancing dilemma. As a non-essential service, you may not have the same limited immunity from COVID-19 related claims as many states offer health care service providers.

So are you safe, from a legal standpoint, to provide tattoos and piercings during the pandemic?

First of all, you should always be looking at the local laws and bylaws in your home city, state and country, and the related penalties. If non-essential services are required to stay closed as COVID-19 numbers ramp up, the parlor or studio you operate out of will need to close during this time.

Or maybe you’re grappling with vague lockdown protocols and are unsure how to proceed. In Ontario, Canada, a tattoo parlour was open this past November, but only because they were technically allowed to and were worried about losing government support if they voluntarily closed. 

The owner Jim Watts related to the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC): “You can’t tell us ‘you have to be open for the sake of the economy’ but then tell the economy ‘don’t go here, it’s non-essential. You only go to school, work, groceries, medical.'” The situation was so frustrating, and they even took to Twitter:

When restrictions are looser, or you choose to take on clients in your home, you need to weigh the risks carefully. Do you feel comfortable that you can protect your clients from contracting the virus, mainly as we identify more contagious strains? The threat of a COVID-related lawsuit has many concerned. For example, certain shops won’t even do nose piercings yet because of COVID.

Just as you need to have your clients sign tattoo consent forms, many are now looking to COVID waivers as possible legal protection for their business.

Do COVID Waivers Work to Safeguard Your Business?

Many tattoos and piercing professionals are widely implementing COVID-19 waivers as protection against legal action should a client or employee contract COVID-19. Their purpose is to inform the signee of the many precautions you are taking to keep them safe while also having them waive the right to sue should they contract COVID-19, and it’s linked to your business. 

However, despite the widespread adoption of waivers, it’s still too early to say how well they hold up in lawsuits across the United States. In August of 2020, an Illinois woman filed the first wrongful death “take home” lawsuit. She accuses her father and his business of gross negligence as he contracted COVID and brought it home to her mother, who died. One estimate from analytics firm Praedicat states that US businesses could lose $21 billion collectively from lawsuits in a worst-case scenario.

As this would cause massive damage to an already damaged economy, many states passed “good faith” immunity laws for businesses to protect against lawsuits. However, these laws extend only as far as that business was exercising a duty of care – following all the CDC and local health authorities’ guidelines to minimize infection risk while providing service. 

Even if it proved your business was negligent in not correctly implementing COVID-19 safeguards, you are still open to legal risk.

Duty of Care for Tattoo Parlors During COVID-19

Legally you have to follow the COVID-19 public health guidelines in your state and local municipality. Still, the CDC has a comprehensive guide for beauty shops that may be more comprehensive than what your local guidelines require.

You will want to make sure that if you implement a COVID liability waiver, you note in the waiver the protections you utilize and that the client agrees to accept the risk regardless. You will also want to make sure that the client signs off a coronavirus response form that they aren’t sick or have any COVID-19 symptoms. 

CDC Guidelines Include: 

  • Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices.
  • Consider conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks (e.g., symptom and temperature screening) of workers as they report to work.
  • Take action if a worker or client is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • Modify the alignment of workstations where feasible. For example, redesign workstations so other clients/tattoo artists cannot face each other. Or separate them from each other by at least six feet.
  • Establish, where possible, physical barriers between workers and between workers and clients.
  • Make sure the workspace is well ventilated.
  • Close or limit access to common areas where workers are likely to congregate and interact, such as break rooms, outside the entrance, and entrance/exit areas.
  • Use visual cues such as floor decals, colored tape, and signs to remind workers to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others, including their workstations and in break areas.
  • Place handwashing stations or hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol in multiple locations throughout the workplace for workers and clients.
  • Require the use of cloth masks while on site
  • When scheduling and confirming appointments, inform all clients to cancel and reschedule their appointments if they do not feel well.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Clean and disinfect all workstation surfaces and tools between clients.
  • Limit the sharing of materials such as clipboards, pens, or touchscreens, if possible
  • Limit the number of people in the beauty salon or barbershop

One of the challenges of having clients sign a waiver in this environment is avoiding communal clipboards, pens or tablet devices. Rather than have clients sign the release on a shared clinic device, you can use an electronic waiver service like WaiverForever to email it to them 24 hours before their appointment to fill it out at home. 

If they aren’t able to do so, you can also set up a QR code in your studio, leading them to the waiver on their device to sign.

The Benefits of Using an Electronic Waiver Service

COVID-19 has upended all of our lives and added a whole layer of complication to running your business. Let WaiverForever make your COVID-19 piercing and tattoo waiver form signing easy and safe.

Our waiver service works in browsers on both desktop and mobile, and our waiver app for both Android and Apple allows you to set up a waiver signing system in kiosk mode quickly. Waivers are stored securely in the cloud, and our security protocols support legal digital signatures.
We encourage you to learn more about WaiverForever and start your unlimited free trial. Let us help support your business stay safe during the pandemic and beyond.

So are you safe, from a legal standpoint, to provide tattoos and piercings during the pandemic?

First of all, you should always be looking at the local laws and bylaws in your home city, state and country, and the related penalties. If non-essential services are required to stay closed as COVID-19 numbers ramp up, the parlor or studio you operate out of will need to close during this time.

Or maybe you’re grappling with vague lockdown protocols and are unsure how to proceed. In Ontario, Canada, a tattoo parlour was open this past November, but only because they were technically allowed to and were worried about losing government support if they voluntarily closed. 

The owner Jim Watts related to the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC): “You can’t tell us ‘you have to be open for the sake of the economy’ but then tell the economy ‘don’t go here, it’s non-essential. You only go to school, work, groceries, medical.'” The situation was so frustrating, and they even took to Twitter:

When restrictions are looser, or you choose to take on clients in your home, you need to weigh the risks carefully. Do you feel comfortable that you can protect your clients from contracting the virus, mainly as we identify more contagious strains? The threat of a COVID-related lawsuit has many concerned.

Just as you need to have your clients sign tattoo consent forms, many are now looking to COVID waivers as possible legal protection for their business.

Do COVID Waivers Work to Safeguard Your Business?

Many tattoos and piercing professionals are widely implementing COVID-19 waivers as protection against legal action should a client or employee contract COVID-19. Their purpose is to inform the signee of the many precautions you are taking to keep them safe while also having them waive the right to sue should they contract COVID-19, and it’s linked to your business. 

However, despite the widespread adoption of waivers, it’s still too early to say how well they hold up in lawsuits across the United States. In August of 2020, an Illinois woman filed the first wrongful death “take home” lawsuit. She accuses her father and his business of gross negligence as he contracted COVID and brought it home to her mother, who died. One estimate from analytics firm Praedicat states that US businesses could lose $21 billion collectively from lawsuits in a worst-case scenario.

As this would cause massive damage to an already damaged economy, many states passed “good faith” immunity laws for businesses to protect against lawsuits. However, these laws extend only as far as that business was exercising a duty of care – following all the CDC and local health authorities’ guidelines to minimize infection risk while providing service. 

Even if it proved your business was negligent in not correctly implementing COVID-19 safeguards, you are still open to legal risk.

Duty of Care for Tattoo Parlors During COVID-19

Legally you have to follow the COVID-19 public health guidelines in your state and local municipality. Still, the CDC has a comprehensive guide for beauty shops that may be more comprehensive than what your local guidelines require.

You will want to make sure that if you implement a COVID liability waiver, you note in the waiver the protections you utilize and that the client agrees to accept the risk regardless. You will also want to make sure that the client signs off a coronavirus response form that they aren’t sick or have any COVID-19 symptoms. 

CDC Guidelines Include: 

  • Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices.
  • Consider conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks (e.g., symptom and temperature screening) of workers as they report to work.
  • Take action if a worker or client is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • Modify the alignment of workstations where feasible. For example, redesign workstations so other clients/tattoo artists cannot face each other. Or separate them from each other by at least six feet.
  • Establish, where possible, physical barriers between workers and between workers and clients.
  • Make sure the workspace is well ventilated.
  • Close or limit access to common areas where workers are likely to congregate and interact, such as break rooms, outside the entrance, and entrance/exit areas.
  • Use visual cues such as floor decals, colored tape, and signs to remind workers to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others, including their workstations and in break areas.
  • Place handwashing stations or hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol in multiple locations throughout the workplace for workers and clients.
  • Require the use of cloth masks while on site
  • When scheduling and confirming appointments, inform all clients to cancel and reschedule their appointments if they do not feel well.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Clean and disinfect all workstation surfaces and tools between clients.
  • Limit the sharing of materials such as clipboards, pens, or touchscreens, if possible
  • Limit the number of people in the beauty salon or barbershop

One of the challenges of having clients sign a waiver in this environment is avoiding communal clipboards, pens or tablet devices. Rather than have clients sign the release on a shared clinic device, you can use an electronic waiver service like WaiverForever to email it to them 24 hours before their appointment to fill it out at home. 

If they aren’t able to do so, you can also set up a QR code in your studio, leading them to the waiver on their device to sign.

The Benefits of Using an Electronic Waiver Service

COVID-19 has upended all of our lives and added a whole layer of complication to running your business. Let WaiverForever make your COVID-19 piercing and tattoo waiver form signing easy and safe.

Our waiver service works in browsers on both desktop and mobile, and our waiver app for both Android and Apple allows you to set up a waiver signing system in kiosk mode quickly. Waivers are stored securely in the cloud, and our security protocols support legal digital signatures.

We encourage you to learn more about WaiverForever and start your unlimited free trial. Let us help support your business stay safe during the pandemic and beyond.