Personnel must be protected from risks associated with the exposure to and use of animals in research and teaching. Animals, infectious agents harbored by the animal, mechanical and physical conditions or other agents used in the study protocol may present hazards. Occupational health requirements are described below.
Laboratory safety training is required for all personnel working in research laboratories. Topics such as safety and waste management are covered. This training should be provided by the principal investigator to persons authorized to conduct work under the Animal Study Proposal. Animal handling training is available through the Principal investigator, or other resources that are available.
A zoonosis is a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Zoonotic diseases can be prevented through a variety of means, including: Good personal hygiene, use of protective clothing, prevention of bites and scratches, proper sharps handling procedures, medical surveillance and vaccination programs, and post-injury treatment.
All personnel in contact with animals should use clothing dedicated to the animal work area. Laboratory coats are provided for all personnel. This clothing must be changed daily or whenever necessary in an effort to maintain cleanliness and to help minimize any potential for cross contamination. In addition to this general recommendation, some animal rooms may have additional requirements. These rooms will be posted with the requirements and adherence to the requirements is requisite to continued access to the room.
Showers and toilet facilities are provided for all persons working in the animal facility. Persons handling animals are urged to wash their hands thoroughly before eating or drinking. Any person with a high likelihood of exposure to and contamination with animal wastes and or body fluids is strongly encouraged to shower at the end of the working day. All personnel should wash hands thoroughly if animals are handled. This is required to insure personal protection and minimize any potential for cross contamination. Eating, drinking, and smoking are not permitted in the animal holding facilities or procedure rooms.
Medical Surveillance and Vaccination
The AU Animal Program and the IACUC cooperate to provide health surveillance and vaccinations (where available) for diseases that present risk to research animal users. Tetanus vaccine is needed every 10 years, and may be boosted after injuries. This vaccine is required for all personnel with animal contact, unless it may not be administered for health reason. Please contact the Research Compliance Office for contact information for the occupational health provider.
Bites and Injuries
Virtually any animal can cause severe health problems by biting, scratching or kicking. All animal bites and scratches that break the skin should be washed promptly with an antibacterial soap and medical attention sought for severe wounds. Animal bites and scratches should be promptly cleaned and reported to the principal investigator or the facility manager. Other injuries should be treated according to standard first aid procedures. If further medical attention is needed, it is available from the Student Health Center 202-885-3381 (AU students only), or contact Public Safety's emergency line 202-885-2525.
Allergies to laboratory animals may develop with prolonged exposure. Personnel who already have allergies to other things may be at increased risk for developing allergies to animals. It is important to consult with your doctor about suspected allergies (cold-like symptoms, difficulty breathing, rashes). Allergies can be managed through procedures such as desensitization, allergy medication, and prevention of exposure to allergens using proper hygiene, and personal protective clothing and equipment. A face mask and gloves should always be worn when performing bedding disposal. Allergies can develop to latex gloves and other materials. Staff should be familiar with the signs of latex allergies and the means of preventing it.
Safe and Humane Handling of Laboratory Animals
Only persons trained and experienced should handle and perform procedures on animals. Do not attempt to handle an animal if you are uncertain of the proper method. Ask the principal investigator or other experienced staff for training.
The use of hazardous agents and substances in research studies requires review by AU safety and a plan for personnel protection and waste disposal. This information must be provided to the IACUC in the Animal Study Proposal Form. For waste disposal or more information contact the facility manager. Chemical Safety: Never mix more than one product together in a cleaning solution unless product directions specifically state to do so. Wear eye protection when using concentrated disinfectants or detergents or other caustic chemical agents. Gloves, protective eyewear (face shield or goggles), a chemical resistant apron and water proof boots should be worn when working with concentrated chemicals in the cage wash area (e.g., changing bulk chemical storage). MSDS - Material Safety Data Sheets contain information regarding proper usage, active ingredients, and safety procedures for using detergents and disinfectants. They are available in binders in the cage wash areas.
Cage Washing The cage wash room has several potential hazards that must be considered: chemical, noise and high temperatures/steam. Extreme caution must be exercised in this area. Hearing protection should be used if in this area during operation, heavy chemical resistant gloves must be worn when changing/filling the chemical storage tanks, and all steam leaks must be reported for repair.
Sharps Handling and Disposal
The use of sharps, such as needles, scalpels and sharp objects in the lab can present a risk to personnel if handled and disposed of improperly. Sharps may be contaminated with animal blood or hazardous material. Sharps should always be treated as if they are a potential hazard. To prevent exposure of personnel to these agents and to prevent inappropriate disposal of these sharps into the general public or being used by unauthorized personnel, procedures for proper disposal must be followed.
• Use adequate restraint when injecting an animal.
• Do not recap or remove needles from syringes after use.
• Use an approved sharps container, and seal it when it becomes 3/4 full.
• Have a sharps container in the area in which you are working. Immediately place sharps into the sharps container.
• If you must recap a needle, use a one-handed technique or use a device for recapping the needle.
• If you must remove a needle use a device (thumb forceps or hemostats).
• If you have an injury caused by a sharp object, clean the wound immediately and seek medical attention. If you know what was in or on the sharp inform your care provider.
Security is an important issue that is the responsibility of both investigators and graduate students working in the animal facility. Security includes protection from incursion, theft and vandalism. Prevention of these problems involves increasing staff awareness of security issues, limiting access to areas, protecting equipment and data, and following proper reporting procedures in case of an emergency. To prevent potential interference with ongoing research projects, it is essential to keep the facilities secure. Code locks secure the animal holding facilities, and the combination is changed regularly. Codes must not be given to other than authorized faculty and staff.
Any emergencies such as fire, natural disasters, personnel injury or security breaches should be reported to Security at x2525.