ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences
Animal house staff face two unique hazards:
- Injuries inflicted directly by tooth
or claw of their charges.
- Disease through exposure to pathogenic
organisms carried by the animals, alive or dead, their excreta,
discharges, soiled bedding, food wastes and spilt water.
- Staff who are pregnant should not be
permitted to work with cats as cats can be carriers of
toxoplasma, which can produce serious disease in the foetus.
- Staff who are pregnant should not work
with anaesthetic gases.
- Persons with histories of cutaneous or
respiratory allergies are especially vulnerable to animals and
it is doubtful whether they should be employed in an animal
- All staff who handle animals are
advised to have an annual dose of tetanus toxoid.
- Staff who regularly handle nonhuman
primates should have regular checks for tuberculosis.
- Monkey bites may transmit herpes B
virus which is known to cause encephalitis in humans.
- Psittacosis may be transmitted by a
wide variety of birds including domestic poultry. All sick or
dead birds should be regarded as potentially infected until a
postmortem has determined the cause of death.
- Ectoparasites and fungal infections of
the skin are common in laboratory animals and may be transferred
to animal handlers directly or indirectly; e.g. cats commonly
harbour ringworm fungi on their coats without
discernible lesions, various species of Australian wildlife may
carry ticks, of which the most important, Ixodes holocyclus, is
capable of causing paralysis in man.
- Infection with enteric organisms, e.g.
Shigella from primates and Salmonella from other species.
Echinococcus and Toxocara are passed in dog faeces and can cause
hydatids or visceral larva migrans in humans.
- Other diseases which may be
encountered from contact with infected urine or placental
material from farm livestock are:
- Brucellosis: contact with aborted
foetuses or placentas and vaginal discharge of cattle or
- Vibriosis: ingestion of infected
water, food, milk or meat.
- Leptospirosis: contact with
infected urine through open cuts or abrasions.
- Q fever: contact with infected
- Avoid aerosol formation generated by
splashing urine or using hoses vigorously.
- Use biological safety cabinets for the
examination of animal material and for autopsies of small
animals. Laminar flow hoods DO NOT offer sufficient protection
to the operator.
- Handle inoculants with care. If a
needle puncture injury occurs with an inoculant immediately seek
advice as to any associated hazard.
- Only authorised personnel should be
allowed entry to the animal house.
- Animal house staff should always work
in pairs and should never go alone into a room housing primates.
- A postmortem examination should be
carried out by a competent person on each animal that dies
unexpectedly, in order to establish the cause of death and the
possibility of danger to other animals or staff.
- ALWAYS wear protective clothing which
should include full coverage of the body, gloves, cap, boots and
face mask when appropriate. A full face shield should be worn
when handling primates. Protective clothing protects the wearer
from pathogenic organisms and it decreases the effect of a
direct attack by an animal.
Animal Related Injuries
All animals, if sufficiently provoked, will
make their displeasure felt. The risk of incurring an injury from an
animal can be minimised by :
- Wearing appropriate protective
clothing and especially gloves. The clothing may range from a
laboratory coat to a full change of clothing, including mask,
cap and gloves and overshoes dependent upon the hazard.
- Handling the animal in a manner which
will not hurt or frighten it. Treat animals with kindness and
consideration and you will be rewarded with their trust.
- Providing and using properly designed
and maintained equipment to restrain the animals.
- Using sedative drugs where
Any bite, scratch or cut, however trivial,
received in an animal house must get immediate treatment. Clean the
affected area and cover it. See medical advice if there is any doubt
at all about the state of health of the animal. Make a record of the
nature of the injury and the steps taken to treat the injury.
- Building should be kept clean, tidy
and in good repair. Animal rooms, corridors, storage and service
areas should be swept, washed and disinfected as often as
necessary to keep them clean and free from harmful
- Wastes must be collected and
disposed of in a sanitary manner. Containers should be
leak-proof and have tight fitting lids. Removal of waste must be
on a regular basis and the storage area for waste containers
prior to removal should be separate form the main building and
free from vermin. If possible incinerate all waste and
especially animal carcasses.
- Pest control an efficient pest
control programme is essential for the effective control of
flies, cockroaches, rodents and other pests. Care is needed in
the use of pesticides to avoid danger to animals or staff.
- Personal hygiene is of the utmost
importance in controlling the possibility of infection in staff.
Ready access to showers and toilet facilities and clean
protective clothing is essential. There should be adequate
storage facilities for street clothes. A programme for regular
medical checks for the presence of communicable diseases between
animals and humans is recommended. Never eat, drink, smoke or
apply cosmetics in animal rooms, there should be provided a
separate staff room for these purposes. Do not wear protective
clothing outside the animal facility. Wash your hands
frequently, always before entering an animal room and always
after leaving an animal room.
All staff should be aware of the dangers with
regard to electricity, toxic or corrosive chemicals and heat. They
should also ensure that they are fully aware of the safety
requirements with regard to ionising radiation, especially if
experiments are being conducted on animals using radioactive
isotopes. Animals used for experiments using radioactive isotopes
should be humanely destroyed after the experiment and the carcass
should be incinerated. The ash should be collected and stored in a
safe container until any danger from the isotope has passed. The
incinerator will need to be checked for radioactivity before any
maintenance is carried out.
UFAW Staff (1976)
The UFAW Handbook on the Care and Management
of Laboratory Animals. 5th edition 1976. E. and S. Livingstone,
National Health and Medical Research
Code of Practice for the Care and Use of
Animals for Experimental Purposes.
Australian Government Publishing Service,
U.S. Department of Health and Human
Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory
Public Health Service, National Institute of
Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20205, U.S.A.
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