By: Chelsea Brunette

Ottawa Public Health is collaborating with Algonquin students to create awareness of businesses that provide tattoos, piercings, manicures, pedicures, facials and acupuncture which must adhere to strict health codes.

Ottawa Public Health has put together a survey about Personal Service Settings (PSS) businesses to gather opinions on many topics such as licensing, infection control and feelings about potential risks. These surveys have been posted on some of Algonquin’s portals, available to anyone.

“It’s important to get students to learn about PSS because they often get their first tattoo or piercing while they’re in post-secondary school,” said Kyla Cullain, part of the Outbreak Management and Infection Control team for Ottawa Public Health.

In addition to the anonymous public survey, OPH is working with two fourth-year nursing students to gather contacts and they’re connecting with the owners and operators of PSS businesses to get their opinions.

“It sort of gives Algonquin students a taste of what it would be like to work in the real world and it also benefits us because really, Algonquin students put out amazing work whether it be nursing or graphic design, so we benefit as well,” said Cullain.

For the first time, OPH is also working with three third-year graphic design students, known as the Uppercase team. They will create new educational material for both the public and PSS operators or owners, including fact sheets and brochures that will be updated to be more attention-grabbing.

“It’s something that’s attractive that you actually want to learn, because there are so many factors behind getting a tattoo. For example, that you can’t just pick up the flyer and skim through it, it’s like ‘Yeah I know there are these diseases or whatever I could catch,’ but [it makes] you actually read it and understand it because it’s visually appealing,” said Sarah Casselman, Uppercase member.

Casselman and her group members Taulant Sulko and Tara Caldwell all agree that the partnership and communication with OPH has been without issues.

“I’m surprised that the relation has been so good so far and we’ve been lucky,” said Sulko.

Their good fortune wasn’t the only surprising thing about working with their client.

“I didn’t know that nail salons would have such a big safety precaution to them, you go get your nails done you don’t expect that you could end up leaving with an infection,” said Caldwell. “So that’s one thing, you just think of the standard tattoos, piercings, actually piercing through skin, but nails as well are kind of a hazard too if you’re not careful.”

People looking into personal services should ask the person providing the service, questions they feel they need to know beforehand. Cullain said that a good operator will answer any questions, show you the inspection report and guide you through how they sterilize their equipment. If they don’t do this then it’s better to leave and contact Ottawa Public Health for further information on the inspection report.

“If you don’t feel comfortable there, if you don’t feel safe, just leave, because it’s your body, it’s your health,” said Cullain. “There’s a lot of fantastic operators out there and sometimes it’s just a matter of shopping around and feeling comfortable with that person before you have someone provide you one of these services.”

For more information on PSS visit