Good housekeeping practices and sanitation are the key to reducing
the risk of physical hazard injuries. It is important for you
to keep work surfaces clean and clear of obstructions, waste, and other
materials. All boxes, hoses, or bags of bedding material should be routinely
removed from the work area. Mop floors and clean work surfaces with
the appropriate cleaning and disinfectant solutions. Keep in mind
that poor housekeeping is unprofessional and will increase your risk
of accidents and injury.
Bites and Scratches
The hazard of animal bites and scratches is associated with animal and contaminated equipment contact and is best avoided by patient handling techniques and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Knowledge of animal behavior and how animals respond to their immediate physical environment is important in reducing risk of injury.
Animals respond to sights, sounds, and smells as people do, but they also hear, smell, and react to things that people do not detect. For example, if an animal hears a high-pitched sound, it may become frightened and react defensively. Many animals have a flight zone, and if approached by another animal or you as the handler, the affected animal may try to escape. Unsuccessful escape may cause the animal to act aggressively. Of course, inappropriate handling of an animal can cause discomfort, pain, and distress and provoke an animal to bite or scratch.
Animal bites and scratches that cause minor skin damage are sometimes disregarded by animal workers who are unfamiliar with a number of diseases that can be spread by such injuries. You should keep in mind that even minor bites and/or scratches can result in infections and illnesses if they are not properly treated.
Scratches, scraps, and injuries from contaminated
equipment associated with animal care and housing, such as
cages, can be as great a risk as direct animal contact and should be
Animal care operations involve a number of activities that can cause
physical stress when handling and moving heavy loads. The use
of proper lifting techniques can help prevent injuries to your back
and shoulders when moving cages, bags of feed and bedding, pieces of
equipment, and supplies. Poor physical fitness, obesity, poor posture,
smoking, and medical/physical deficiencies are personal factors that
may contribute to back pain. When lifting heavy loads, you should
avoid sudden movements and use a two-handed lifting technique.
Keep your back straight, feet positioned apart with one slightly ahead
of the other, and knees bent as the lift is completed. Reduce
loads where possible and get help when lifting awkward loads or those
that cannot be handled safely by one person.
Those involved in the care and use of research animals must be familiar with the chemical hazards associated with the animal care and laboratory environment. Chemical properties may include flammability, corrosiveness, reactivity, or the potential to be explosive. Potentially hazardous chemicals used in animal laboratories include solvents (xylene, acetone, dimethyl sulfoxide), acids (hydrochloric, sulfuric), bases (sodium hydroxide, quaternary disinfectants), fixatives (formaldehyde, osmium tetroxide), sterilants (peracetic acid, chlorine dioxide, peroxides, gluteraldehyde), and anesthetics (isoflurane, tribromoethanol, methane sulfonate, nitrous oxide, urethane, barbiturates). Each chemical product should be handled carefully using the label directions, the recommended PPE, and in accordance with University guidelines and lab training. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) are also available in the lab on all chemical products used. These provide additional information on the hazards and precautions related to a chemicalís use. Be certain that you understand the proper use of the chemical material before you use it.
Most animals used in research are bred specifically for that purpose and do not have the potential for transmitting the kinds of illness organisms that those in the wild do. But there are some illnesses and infections (zoonoses) that can be passed from animals to people, and these will be discussed in more detail later in this training.
With research animals, biological hazards are of most concern when the animals are naturally infected (as monkeys can be with Simian B virus) or if animals are infected with a bacteria or virus as part of the experimental work. Under these conditions and when doing field research with wild species, it is of most critical importance that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other appropriate protective measures be used to prevent infection.
Animal Biosafety Levels
If research animals are infected with bacteria or viruses as part of the experiments being done or are naturally infected, there must be consideration of what risk there is of exposure to people and, if there is a risk, how it will be controlled.
There are four levels of control, known as Animal Biosafety Levels (ABSL) 1 thru 4 that provide increasing levels of protection to those working with these animals. Each level has recommendations for practices, safety measures, and facility design that will control the particular level of biological hazard involved. ABSL1 is for animal work with little or no hazard to humans while ABSL4 are measures put in place to prevent exposure to highly infectious and life-threatening biological agents in the research animal.
In animal facilities at Princeton University, there is no animal research done with highly infectious or exotic biological agents. The only present work with experimentally-infected animals involves mice and rats injected with viruses that have limited or no potential for human infection. This work is done in a special animal facility in Molecular Biology which meets ABSL 2.
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