When Our Client's Piercings Meet Our Client's Fingers: A Love Story

Touching a healing piercing is gross.  No two ways about it.  It’s unsafe for the person who has the piercing (and is apparently hell-bent on ruining it), and it’s unsafe for the people around that person.

Us piercers have been fighting the “please don’t touch your piercing” battle for a long time, and I have bad news.  We aren’t just losing.  We are “Safety-On-The-First-Play-Of-The-Superbowl” losing.

We are BUTTFUMBLE losing.

That’s not good, friends.

(y'know who is good?  Tom freaking Brady.  That's who. Can you tell I'm excited about football?)

We need to be honest with ourselves.  Our approach isn’t working.  If we don’t modify how we prevent (and react to) our customers touching their piercings, we can expect to continue losing the war.  

New Approach part 1:
Us piercers?  Yeah we need to chill out.

I’ve seen employees of mine blow this issue out of proportion, and I know in piercing studios all over the world it's even worse.  Scolding clients isn’t cool or necessary. I’m not saying it’s a great idea to touch a piercing, and it’s especially not cool inside a piercing studio.  But if you actually think you are catching every person who touches their piercing in your shop, you are lying to yourself.  And really, inside the shop versus on the sidewalk two feet before the client opened your door? ...versus in their car on the way to the shop? ...are they really that different?

(I touched the SuperBowl trophy. I still can't believe they let me touch it. "How is this relevant"?
 Shut up that's how it's relevant.)

If you've been freaking out and scrubbing the shop down when someone touches their piercing in front of you, you are doing it wrong. You've got to assume everyone has touched their piercings, and clean the shop accordingly.

We know as piercers we observe standard precautions: “Standard Precautions are the minimum infection prevention practices that apply to all patient care, regardless of suspected or confirmed infection status of the patient, in any setting where healthcare is delivered. These practices are designed to both protect HCP and prevent HCP from spreading infections among patients. Standard Precautions include: 1) hand hygiene, 2) use of personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, gowns, masks), 3) safe injection practices, 4) safe handling of potentially contaminated equipment or surfaces in the patient environment, and 5) respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette.” http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/settings/outpatient/outpatient-care-gl-standared-precautions.html

Basically, standard precautions means all body fluid is dangerous, and let's prevent it from going all over the place.  I draw your attention to part 4. “safe handling of potentially contaminated equipment or surfaces in the patient environment.”  The safest approach is to treat the whole shop as “patient environment”.  Whether or not you saw the client touch their piercing, you should assume they have.  Most conscientious shops already know this.  They disinfect surfaces regularly.  They aren’t cleaning just because they witnessed someone touching their piercing, they clean because everyone brings germs from a variety of different sources through the door with them.  Just think about how gross cash is.

Everyone brings a Pandora's box of bacteria with them wherever they go. Our shops are no exception.

So let’s stop being the health and safety gestapo.  Being overly freaked or offended by someone doing something they shouldn’t doesn’t fix the problem (at least, it hasn’t yet). Remember, the point of all this is client safety.  If the client perceives your zeal for safety as rudeness, they are likely to go elsewhere.  In a lot of areas, “elsewhere” means to shops that are a lot less safe than yours.  So in the interest of safety, let’s simmer down.

(See what I did there?)

New Approach Part 2:
Keeping hand sanitizer available, but not compulsory.

I again point to standard precautions: hand hygiene.  Hand hygiene is huge in reducing infections.  While it would be really nice to have a hand washing sink right at the door of the shop, and make everyone who enters or leaves the shop use it. That’s completely unrealistic.

My suggestion is have hand sanitizer readily available throughout the shop.  Preferably, in multiple locations.  I love the infrared dispensers, and I think they add a small “fun” factor to keeping hands clean.  
(Maybe my idea of fun is weird. I dunno. Shut up.)

The thing is, no one likes to be told to wash their hands.  If/when you get asked to wash your hands, you feel dumb, gross, and insulted.  Sometimes we forget how we appear to our customers.  For some, we are just the folks who do piercings.  For others, though, we are the height of unapproachable cool.  Imagine how either person might feel if you or your employee says “Ugh could you please wash your hands now that you’ve touched your piercing”.  Either insulted or crushed.  Neither is good.

Keep in mind, we’ve established that you need to assume everyone has touched their piercings.  Ample access to hand sanitizer encourages cleaner hands and doesn’t result in these kinds of customer service blunders.  

Yes, some people won’t bother with hand sanitizer.  Some will still touch their piercings in your shop.  As long as we are cleaning the shop as if everyone has touched their piercings, we are doing our job.

New Approach Part 3:
Better signage for our customers.

This is the part of this blog I’m very excited about.  Meet Danny Greenwood:

She’s just about the most charming, fun, and talented person I know.  And *sheesh* is she awesome at graphic design.  

One of the things I think the industry could benefit from is really excellent signage.  Years ago, Joel Burgess from Savannah, Georgia put out the best comparison of internally threaded and externally threaded jewelry I have ever seen.
(Image courtesy my favorite, Brian Skellie. READ HIS BLOG)

Health Educators, Inc put out a great needlestick protocol poster. A few others have made educational signs for their employees and clients over the years.  Inspired by these (and borrowing from vintage Public Service Announcement posters), Danny and I teamed up for an eye catching body piercing PSA.
Creative Commons License
Piercing PSAs 1-4 by Dannielle Greenwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

We knew that we wanted minimum text. We opted not to have a finger touching a piercing, because that image might be misconstrued by people who don't take the time to read the poster. The idea is (hopefully) the image is engaging enough that our customers read and understand the message. We also kept the wording very simple so most learning abilities were included. Danny did an excellent job of getting the point across in an aesthetically pleasing way, and she’s done it for FREE.

That’s right. For the good of piercing everywhere, Danny has donated these images to piercers to use as they see fit.  If you want this image, it is all yours.  Download it, print it.  The high-res pdf files are located here, albeit temporarily: PIERCING NERD PSAs

(Depending on how popular the posters are, I may need to move them to a different hosting service.)

In closing
It’s been an absolute joy to team up with Danny for this blog entry.  You can contact her to commission graphic design work here: dannythegirl.bro @ gmail . com

I’m hoping even if you disagree with my approach, you find these posters to be helpful in communicating with your clients!

Bonus: Here's me and Fakir Musafar celebrating the Patriots Superbowl Victory.
Creative Commons License