» Safety with Animals


[11/16, updated]

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."

laboratory hazards

+ - Laboratory Animal Occupational Health Program (LAOHP)

[9/20, updated]

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.

RASQ form

Risk Assessment Safety Questionnaire (RASQ):
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.

LAOHP form:
This questionnaire (part of the LAOHP document 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 combined process:

  • Identify yourself as someone working with animals in some capacity (research, teaching, or testing purposes) at Chapman University.
  • Follow these steps to enroll yourself in the LAOHP.  NOTE:  This a general outline -- your circumstances may dictate a different approach.
  • Obtain the one-page RASQ form here.  Complete it either on-line or on paper, answering the questions about your involvement with animals.  Be sure to respond YES or NO to the questions (#1 and #2) in the lower half, but please do not provide any medical details.  Send it to the IACUC office, iacuc@chapman.edu or 405 Beckman Hall on the Orange campus.
  • The IACUC office, usually the administrator, will acknowledge receipt of your RASQ, usually by return email.  It will be evaluated for content and any discrepancies.  If satisfactory, it will be noted as having completed the OHSP component of the animal use protocol, if applicable.  You may also use the email to inform others of your participation in the LAOHP, e.g., for teaching activities with animals.
  • Upon reviewing your responses, the IACUC administrator may ask you further questions.  For example, clarification may be needed about a response or advice about PPE may be suggested.
  • If you responded yes to either question in the lower half of the RASQ, indicating a desire to see a medical professional, there are two things to do.  1) Complete the LAOHP form (health history questionnaire) on paper.  Keep this with you until a medical appointment is established with US HealthWorks in cooperation with Risk Management.  2) Await the receipt by email of a Treatment Authorization Form.  You will be provided with additional detailed steps, as needed, by Risk Management and/or the IACUC office.
  • If a determination is made by Risk Management/EH&S and/or due to recommendations of a medical professional that the individual will be required to use respiratory protection PPE, then the Risk Management/EH&S office will enroll the user in a web-based medical evaluation that meets the requirements of Cal/OSHA.   Such users will receive an email from Dawson Compliance, and will be expected to complete their confidential online form to determine suitability to use a respirator.   If so approved, the user will receive further information from Risk Management/EH&S on securing the required fit-testing.
  • Know that your discussions and tests with the medical professionals remain a private and confidential matter.  What is shared within the animal use program are the appropriate practices you must take for your safety and protection while working with animals, examples including the appropriate use of PPE, other general health and safety techniques to avoid scratches and bites, and more.  NOTE:  Please do not send your private medical information to the IACUC office or to Risk Management.
  • For the protection of everyone, please do ask for more information from the IACUC, the health provider, Risk Management, and/or your supervisor/advisor.
  • Keep in mind that Chapman University wants you to be safe while working with animals.

+ - Training in Lab Animal Safety

[9/20, updated]

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 tab for information).

+ - Selected Sources of Safety Information and Related Committees

[10/25, updated]

This list should get you started on working safely around animals.  For other assistance about laboratory animal safety, please contact the IACUC office at iacuc@chapman.edu.

  • The Risk Management Department has oversight of a variety of safety concerns at Chapman.  An important component is Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) which has responsibility over many animal-related functions, including general laboratory safety, biological safety, radiation and laser safety, emergency management, and occupational health & safety.  EH&S helps to access Safety Data Sheets.
  • The IACUC is responsible for evaluating safety practices.  In part, that is done during protocol review and during its animal facility inspections, which are conducted at least semi-annually.
  • The vivarium manager and laboratory animal veterinarian can provide hands-on training with an emphasis on safe practices for both the human and the animal.  Contact the IACUC office for more information.
  • The Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), a component of EH&S, is responsible for oversight of studies with concerns about recombinant DNA, select agents, bio-toxins, and other potentially hazardous biological agents.  Resources including the Biosafety Manual and Biological Use Authorization form are available at the EH&S site.  Review by the IACUC of an animal use protocol may require input from the IBC as a condition of approval.
  • Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL), 5th edition, is produced by the CDC's Office of Health and Safety and the NIH to provide national guidelines to promote the safety and health of workers in biological and medical laboratories.
  • Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, 2011