Occupational Health and Safety Concerns: Personnel Health and Safety

  • While all work in research laboratories can present dangers to laboratory personnel, work with animals presents special health and safety concerns. Therefore, PI's should ensure that all individuals with animal contact in their research teams become knowledgeable about potential hazards. In addition, individuals should be encouraged to consult their physician and/or supervisor if they have concerns or questions about their health related to participation in animal use.

    A. Use of Hazardous Materials

    1. Gas Anesthetics
    Gas anesthetics can be very hazardous to human and animal health. The use of an anesthetic agent on animals must be approved by the IACUC. Ether is explosive and flammable and can NEVER be used in any animal facility. It may be used in labs if precautions prescribed by the Safety Officer are followed (proper storage, use in a fume hood, etc). Other gas anesthetics must be used in a manner that minimizes human exposure: under a fume hood or with gas scavenging devices. If you can smell the anesthetic, the exposure exceeds permissible limits.

    2. Bloodborne Pathogens and "Sharps"
    Individuals handling animal tissues or specimens, or using needles, surgical instruments or other sharp instruments that have been in contact with human infectious material must follow the Bloodborne Pathogen Plan.

    3. Use of Hazardous Materials and Animal Use
    The use of hazardous materials or agents in either animals and/or in the animal facilities must be fully described in a protocol form. Hazardous materials used in research can generally be grouped into three categories: 1) chemicals (including carcinogens); 2) radioactivity; and 3) infectious agents. Currently, the use of the hazardous materials listed above are not approved for research in animals at SFU. If a researcher is interested in conducting research involving a hazardous material, the IACUC will review the proposal and establish policy at that time. Since the use of animals in studies involving hazardous agents requires special considerations, the procedures and facilities to be used must also be reviewed by the appropriate institutional offices and committees (i.e. SFU Safety Committee).
    For additional basic information regarding federal, state and local regulations as well as additional reference materials, please refer to The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, the NIH Guidelines for Laboratory use of Chemical Carcinogens, the Material Safety Data Sheets, the requirements of the Centers for Disease Control, and Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, 4th Edition, available at http://www.cdc.gov/od/ohs/biosfty/bmbl4/bmbl4toc.htm.

    B. Routine Animal Handling Precautions

    1. Animal Bites/Other Injuries from Animals
    Animal bites can be serious injuries - more often as a result of infection that from the bite itself. Report any animal bites that draw blood to your supervisor. Faculty and staff are responsible for complying with University Policy. If treatment is needed, report to Student Health Services or your designated health care provider for an evaluation of the injury.

    Animal bites, especially those by rodents that inflict little tissue damage, are sometimes considered inconsequential by personnel who are unfamiliar with the host of diseases that can be spread by this mechanism and the complications that can result from wound contamination from the animal’s natural oral flora. Animal care providers should be aware of the need to determine their current tetanus-immunization status.

    In the event of a major injury call 911 for assistance immediately, notify SFU police and human resources.