Research, training, and testing with animals -- whether in the vivarium, classroom or the field -- bring to the forefront inherent risks and hazards associated with procedures and activities. Both the IACUC and Department of Risk Management at Chapman want persons to be safe and protected. Being safe is the responsibility of all, beginning with the individual who is actually performing the task. While equipment like biological safety cabinets (BSCs), masks, and gloves can provide engineered protection, researchers, faculty, students, and others must assess for themselves the identified safety issues and work towards mitigating them collectively.
Below is a relevant section (pp. 18-19) in "Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals" about "Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment":
"The institutional OHSP (Occupational Health and Safety Program) should identify potential hazards in the work environment and conduct a critical assessment of the associated risks. An effective OHSP ensures that the risks associated with the experimental use of animals are identified and reduced to minimal and acceptable levels. Hazard identification and risk assessment are ongoing processes that involve individuals qualified to assess dangers associated with the program and implement commensurate safeguards. Health and safety specialists with knowledge in relevant disciplines should be involved in risk assessment and the development of procedures to manage such risks.
"Potential hazards include experimental hazards such as biologic agents (e.g., infectious agents or toxins), chemical agents (e.g., carcinogens and mutagens), radiation (e.g., radionuclides, X-rays, lasers), and physical hazards (e.g., needles and syringes). The risks associated with unusual experimental conditions such as those encountered in field studies or wildlife research should also be addressed. Other potential hazards—such as animal bites, exposure to allergens, chemical cleaning agents, wet floors, cage washers and other equipment, lifting, ladder use, and zoonoses—that are inherent in or intrinsic to animal use should be identified and evaluated. Once potential hazards have been identified, a critical ongoing assessment of the associated risks should be conducted to determine appropriate strategies to minimize or manage the risks.
"The extent and level of participation of personnel in the OHSP should be based on the hazards posed by the animals and materials used (the severity or seriousness of the hazard); the exposure intensity, duration, and frequency (prevalence of the hazard); to some extent, the susceptibility (e.g., immune status) of the personnel; and the history of occupational illness and injury in the particular workplace (Newcomer 2002; NRC 1997). Ongoing identification and evaluation of hazards call for periodic inspections and reporting of potential hazardous conditions or 'near miss' incidents."
Below is an image that includes a list of hazards (e.g., biological, radiological, chemical, non-ionizing radiation, physical, laser) that should be assessed for during a Laboratory Hazard Assessment.
At Chapman University, the OHSP (occupational health and safety program) is called the LAOHP. By definition, the LAOHP is a dynamic program to constantly evaluate the risks and hazards associated with animal usage. Basic topics include ergonomic issues which arise from repetitive motions, laboratory animal allergies (LAA) due to exposure to dander and urinary proteins, personal protective equipment (PPE), and zoonotic diseases (plural zoonoses) transmitted between animals and humans. More details about the LAOHP are available at the Risk Management site.
The list of concerns can be infinite though: being pregnant, being immuno-competent or -suppressed, handling sharps, disposing of medical waste, exposure to anesthetic gases, decontaminating oneself or an area in cases of contamination, bites, scratches, venoms, vaccinations, animal bio-safety levels (ABSL 1 thru 4), personal hygiene, reporting accidents, etc. For this reason, the IACUC and EH&S have developed these measures for you to enroll in Chapman’s LAOHP, to assess your potential animal exposure, to become informed, and to have the opportunity to obtain responses to any of these concerns.
The RASQ form asks you to determine what kind of animal user you are, where you work with animals, how much animal work you expect to be doing, and what the known hazards are. If you have a medical condition which potentially puts you at risk or you want to discuss any risks with a medical professional, you have the option to complete the LAOHP form (see next section). Completion of this form is mandatory, yet confidential, to work with animals and to have an animal use protocol approved by the IACUC.
The LAOHP questionnaire (part of the RASQ form referred to above) was developed as a health history medical form for Chapman animal users to complete. It is the complement to the RASQ when you, as an animal user, want to have a private consultation with a medical professional for advice while working with animals. It is HIPAA-compliant, private, and confidential (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
The CITI training program provides a variety of information about risks and hazards associated with animal care and use. Each animal-based encounter (in the vivarium, lab, field, etc.) is unique and needs to be clarified in the animal use protocol, addressing the specifics including awareness of the risk and approaches to mitigating them. Therefore, include evidence of appropriate training in the protocol.
Training materials are developed and/or selected by University EH&S professionals who are knowledgeable in the evaluation and safe use of hazardous materials or procedures. For example, you may subscribe to the curriculum called Biosafety/Biosecurity (BSS) from CITI (see the IACUC Training page for information).
This list should get you started on working safely around animals. Contact the IACUC office for other assistance about laboratory animal safety.