Research Safety

Animal Safety

Protective Equipment

There are numerous protective devices that animal handlers can use to minimize the risks associated with working with animals. A laboratory coat, uniform, or surgical gown, is supplied by the department. This clothing is laundered by the University (usually by the department) and must not be taken home. Disposable gowns or coveralls and gloves are recommended to be worn in animal rooms. In addition, in certain housing areas, disposable shoe covers, head covers and facemasks are provided by the department. Sealed eye protection is required for use in primate rooms. Refer to the Animal Handler PPE chart for details on the level of protective clothing required for the various animal areas based on level of risk.

Personnel with specific exposure to hazardous substances, as determined by OSEH in consultation with Occupational Health Services, may have a mandatory requirement to wear a respirator. Personnel that have developed allergies to animals, as determined by Occupational Health Services, may also have a mandatory requirement to wear a respirator. Areas or operations that require the mandatory use of a respirator will be posted. Staff will be fit tested for the appropriate respirator and will be entered into the OSEH program for Respiratory Protection. Note: a surgical mask is not considered a respirator requiring entry into the OSEH respiratory protection program – the surgical mask is provided for the voluntary use of individuals concerned about developing allergies, for the protection of the animals, or for preventing splash exposure or ingestion of foreign objects by the wearer.

The noise level in animal facility areas may reach potentially damaging levels, depending on the type of equipment being used. This is true for the cage washing areas and may occur in other areas. When OSEH determines that exposures to noise have a potential to exceed regulatory limits, employees will be placed in the OSEH Hearing Conservation Program for proper follow up and training.

Training on PPE use is the responsibility of the ULAM Supervisor for the animal housing area and the PI/Supervisor in the research areas. OSEH representatives are available to assist with the proper selection of equipment and training for staff. General guidance on PPE selection and use is available on the OSEH web site Personal Protective Equipment, General.

Restraint devices can provide an extra measure of safety when handling animals. Squeeze cages, nets, heavy leather gloves, and Kevlar sleeves are available for use when working with primates. Plastic restraint tubes and shields can be used to restrain rodents and canvas restraint bags can be used for cats. A plexiglass or metal restraint box is commonly used to restrain rabbits and a variety of muzzles are available for use with dogs. Contact the ULAM Training Core for training about proper handling and restraint techniques for animals.

Housing facilities for animals which are administered hazardous materials are equipped with biological safety cabinets for research and husbandry procedures. Ventilation in all containment areas is maintained under negative pressure. The HVAC systems are maintained by Plant Operations Facilities Maintenance. Any equipment failure must be reported to OSEH for repair.

Local exhaust ventilation (scavenging devices, fume hoods, or snorkel hoods) are required where volatile anesthetic gases are used for animal anesthesia and/or euthanasia to prevent unnecessary personnel exposure. The use of ether is discouraged; however, those who must use this agent are required to do so in a fume hood or other appropriate ventilating/scavenging device. Containers of ether must be dated upon receipt and opening, and must be disposed prior to the expiration date provided by the vendor.

Biosafety cabinets, fume hoods, and other local exhaust ventilation systems are surveyed and certified by OSEH staff on a schedule defined in the OSEH Standard of Care for Ventilation Engineering Systems. The ventilation system will be certified for a specific purpose – use of hazardous materials or agents, or use for general non-hazardous conditions such as general exhaust of heat or steam. Because of the rigid standards for certification, not all systems can be used for hazardous material operations.

ULAM has developed Cage Wash Safety Guidelines specific to each animal cage wash location. The Guidelines provide clear and concise directions for stopping all cage wash equipment during both routine operations and during emergencies. Either the ULAM staff trainers or the appropriate area supervisor will provide training for all current cage wash employees as well as all new employees as the department hires them.

Emergency eyewash and showers are inspected by Plant Operations Facilities Maintenance on a biannual basis. If equipment is in need of repair, a work order is submitted to Plant Operations for correction and the unit is tagged as non-operational. It is recommended that laboratory staff flush the plumbed eyewashes and showers on a weekly basis and report any malfunctions to Work Control.

Fire extinguisher inspection and testing programs are managed by Plant Operations under direction of OSEH and DPSS. All extinguishers are checked and pressure tested under requirements of NFPA and the State of Michigan OSHA rules. Any extinguishers that are discharged must be reported to DPSS for immediate replacement. Any fire, regardless of size, must be reported to DPSS immediately for investigation and follow up by dialing 911 from any University phone system. DPSS will rely on OSEH to inspect the area after the fire and perform any appropriate air monitoring prior to allowing the work to continue.

Sharps are commonly encountered in research involving animals. Needles, broken glass, pipettes, and scalpels are all used in animal facilities and laboratories. Puncture-resistant and leak proof containers for sharps are available in the animal housing rooms and in laboratories. Basic rules to remember when working with sharps:

  • Never recap needles after use (have a sharps container nearby).
  • Dispose of syringes, needles, glass, vials, and scalpels in a sharps container only.
  • Do not overfill sharps containers. Call OSEH Hazmat for removal when containers are three quarters full.
  • If you cut yourself, perform first aid immediately and report the incident to your supervisor promptly.