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Study finds tattoo artists at an elevated risk of work injuries

In the not-so-distant past, there was something of a cultural stigma attached to the idea of tattoos, such that they were considered to be outside the norm. Fast forward to the present, however, and societal attitudes have shifted considerably, something evidenced by the fact that roughly one in three Americans has a tattoo.

Indeed, tattoos are now a multi-billion dollar industry that is estimated to grow by an astounding 13 percent annually. While this reality has resulted in a demand for tattoo artists, a recent study has revealed that those planning to pursue this as a career should proceed with caution.

Researchers at Ohio State University outfitted 10 tattoo artists with a series of sophisticated electrodes designed to measure muscle movements during client sessions and also took photos of the artists as they worked.

While some might question the rigorousness of the position and the need to study it, consider that tattoo artists are often required to sit with hunched shoulders and craned necks, while holding a vibrating needle gun for hours at a time.     

Indeed, the study, published in the January edition of Applied Ergonomics, revealed that the tattoo artists frequently exceeded the advised exertion limits of several muscle groups, particularly the upper back muscles, which can result in severe neck and shoulder pain.

What makes all of this problematic, say experts, is that when tattoo artists do suffer some manner of debilitating work injury from arthritis and bursitis to herniated discs or carpal tunnel syndrome, they are often unable to secure workers' compensation benefits owing to their status as independent contractors.

The good news is that the study authors did identify some simple steps tattoo artists could take to protect their health. Furthermore, given the growth of the industry, it's perhaps not inconceivable to envision a future in which there are actually opportunities for tattoo artists to secure work comp benefits, as shops get bigger or franchises open.

What are your thoughts?

If you have suffered a serious work injury and your initial claim for work comp benefits was denied, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options going forward. 

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