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Investigating Occupational Hazards in the Tattoo Industry

Story by Nancy Richison

Photo by Giovanni Da Rin Betta


With the rise in popularity of tattoos, ISE Associate Professor Carolyn Sommerich and former master’s student Dana Keester, spent a summer studying tattoo artists at work. What they discovered is that the artists’ working conditions expose them to risk factors for developing muscle and joint pain.

“Tattoo artists are an understudied worker population with respect to investigation of work-related musculoskeletal (MSK) discomfort and associated risk factors,” Sommerich and Keester wrote in the abstract of their paper, “Investigation of musculoskeletal discomfort, work postures, and muscle activation among practicing tattoo artists,” which was published in Applied Ergonomics.

In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, the researchers found that tattoo artists’ aches and pains can be attributed to the positions they are in while working on clients and focused on their artwork. Sommerich and Keester offered some potential solutions to alleviate their pain, including finding specialized chairs, taking more frequent breaks and changing positions; research on the feasibility of these intervention ideas is still needed.

The paper was cited in articles in Science Daily, American Council on Science and Health, Physical Therapy Products, and the Lincoln Journal Star.

Tags: Faculty