Home  |  News  |  Events  |  Contact  |  Publications  |  City of Cambridge

Establishment FAQs



What is the definition of body art?

According to the Cambridge Public Health Department regulation, "Body art shall mean the practice of physical body adornment, alteration or modification by means including, but not limited to, piercing, tattooing, branding, braiding, beading/implantation or scarification, also known as scarring."

How do I open a body art establishment?

Opening a body art establishment is a long process, but the Cambridge Public Health Department will do everything possible to help you. You will need to work with the city's Inspectional Services Department (ISD) during the construction or renovation of your space. You will also work closely with the health department to ensure that the physical design and operation of the shop comply with the Body Art Regulations. The health department will be available to clarify the regulations and provide templates for required forms. The final step involves a comprehensive inspection by the health department just prior to opening.

What is an "exposure control plan" and how do I write one?

The exposure control plan (ECP) is a written plan that explains the policies and procedures your establishment will use to minimize and/or avoid workplace exposures to blood-borne pathogens. It is typically the most difficult written requirement for owners, but the Cambridge Public Health Department has a template that can help you get started. The department can also work with you as you complete the document. If you have questions or need help creating an exposure control plan, please contact Kari Sasportas at 617-665-3848 or ksasportas@challiance.org. See Regulation of Body Art, Sections 8.11 and 8.12.

What is a "consent/disclosure form"?

A consent/disclosure form discloses information concerning tattoos and body piercings, and their possible side effects. All clients must sign this form, declaring that they consent to the procedure and have read and understood the information on the form. The form must also include a place for parents to sign (note: parental consent is required if the client is under age 18). The public health department must approve this form. For more information about what must be included on your consent/disclosure form, see Regulation of Body Art, Section 7.2.

What is a "health history"?

The body art practitioner must inform all clients that certain preexisting health conditions (e.g., diabetes, hemophilia, certain allergies), may increase health risks associated with receiving a body art procedure. The health history form can be combined with the consent/disclosure form. The public health department must approve this form. See Regulation of Body Art, Section 7.3.

What are "aftercare instructions"?

Aftercare instructions educate clients about how to care for their tattoo or piercing after they leave your establishment. The Cambridge Public Health Department must approve the aftercare instructions. See Regulation of Body Art, Sections 7.5 and 7.6..

How do I work with the Inspectional Services Department?

Prior to approaching the city's Inspectional Services Department (617-349-6100) for your building permits, you need to draw a set of plans for the new shop. The plans must be approved by the Cambridge Public Health Department. Health department approval ensures that the plans conform to the various structural requirements of the Body Art Regulation. After approval by the department, you will work with Inspectional Services concerning building permits and, eventually, the Certificate of Occupancy. Inspectional Services also handles all zoning questions, and ISD staff will let you know whether any given location is approved for body art.

Are the requirements for piercing workstations the same as tattoo workstations?

Yes, the requirements for tattoo and piercing workstations are exactly the same.

Are body art establishments required to carry liability insurance?

Yes, the Cambridge Public Health Department requires that all establishments carry a $1 million liability insurance policy. The policy must cover all practitioners who work in the establishment.

What kinds of things need to be posted in my establishment?

You need to post:

  • The establishment license
  • All practitioner licenses
  • Emergency phone numbers, including police, fire, ambulance, and the Cambridge Public Health Department (617-665-3826).

What are my record maintenance requirements?

  • Employee records must be maintained for three years.
  • Client records must be maintained for two years.
  • Waste hauling manifests and autoclave spore testing records must be maintained for three years.
  • Injury reports, which must be submitted to the Cambridge Public Health Department within five days of any injury, must be kept on the property at all times.
  • A copy of the current Body Art Regulation must be kept on the property at all times.
  • A copy of the establishment's exposure control plan must be kept on the property at all times.

NOTE: These are the minimum requirements. You may choose to keep your records permanently. For a full list of record maintenance requirements, see Regulation of Body Art, Section 10.6.

What are the age restrictions for body art procedures?

  • Tattoo: No person under age 18 can get a tattoo, even with parental consent.
  • Body piercing: Age restrictions differ based on the location of the piercing. No person under age 18 can have their genitals or nipples pierced, even with parental consent. Teenagers between ages 14 and 18 can be pierced anywhere except their genitals or nipples, if they have parental consent. The only piercing allowed on a minor client under age 14 is an ear piercing, and this requires parental consent.

More Information

If you are interested in opening a body art establishment, please read the Cambridge Public Health Department's Body Art Regulation. If you have questions, contact Kari Sasportas at 617-665-3848 or ksasportas@challiance.org.

Please mail applications and other correspondence to:

Cambridge Public Health Department
Attn: Kari Sasportas
119 Windsor Street, Ground Floor
Cambridge, MA 02139