​This fact sheet outlines the key requirements in relation to skin penetration procedures under the Public Health Act 2010 and Public Health Regulation 2012.

Last updated: 21 November 2017

To support the ongoing implementation of the Public Health Act 2010 and the Public Health Regulation 2012, a series of Information Sheets have been developed to outline the key requirements in relation to particular areas. For more information visit the NSW Ministry of Health Public Health Legislation webpage.

What is a ‘skin penetration procedure’?

Under the Public Health Act 2010, a skin penetration procedure is defined as:
 ‘any procedure (whether medical or not) that involves skin penetration (such as acupuncture, tattooing, ear piercing or hair removal or the penetration of a mucous membrane), and includes any procedure declared by the regulations to be a skin penetration procedure.’ The Regulations declare colonic lavage, tongue piercing and tongue tattooing as skin penetration procedures.

Who do the requirements of the Public Health Act apply to?

The skin penetration requirements of the Act and Regulation apply to all operators who carry out such procedures which includes:
  • tattooists
  • colonic lavage practitioners
  • beauticians and nail technicians and any other person or a premise that carries out skin penetration activities
  • unregistered acupuncture and dry needling practitioners
  • medical practitioners or other qualified persons carrying out eyeball tattooing.
Note: skin penetration procedures carried out by a health practitioner registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, or by a person acting under the direction or supervision of a registered health practitioner, in the course of providing a health service are not subject to the provisions of the Act or Regulation.

What changed with the Public Health Act review in 2017?

In 2017 the Act was updated to better protect public health by including procedures that penetrate a mucous membrane as skin penetration procedures. Mucous membranes are surfaces such as the lining of the mouth, nose, eye, vagina and anus. This is important as procedures that penetrate mucosal membranes represent similar risks of infection as those that penetrate the skin. Such risks can be mitigated through appropriate infection control requirements.
A further change was the introduction of Section 39A which makes it an offence for a person other than a medical practitioner, or other person prescribed by the regulations, to perform eyeball tattooing. Eyeball tattooing involves penetration of a mucous membrane and carries the risk of infection to the eye as well as injury that may result in loss of vision.
The changes regarding eyeball tattooing will commence on 1 December 2017. The changes to the definition of a skin penetration procedure will commence on 1 April 2018.

What are the key requirements for the skin penetration sector?

Under the Public Health Act 2010 and the Public Health Regulation 2012, the occupier of premises where skin penetration procedures are carried out will be required to:
  • notify the local council of the activity
  • ensure that premises where skin penetration procedures are practised are equipped appropriately
  • ensure that all needles and sharps which penetrate the skin are sterile
  • ensure there is an appropriate sharps container at the premises
  • ensure bench top sterilisers are operated in accordance with Australian Standards
  • ensure adequate infection control practices and personal protective equipment (PPE) are used
  • ensure compliance with all aspects of the Act and Regulation as they relate to skin penetration.
The Regulation also sets out the requirements persons who carry out skin penetration must comply with, such as wearing gloves and protective clothes and not reusing needles.

Where to go for further information

If you will be affected by the amendment to the legislation, and you want further information, you can: