The University of Michigan is committed to the safety and security of our program personnel, and to all animals under our care. Although minimal, there are some hazards associated with working around, and with, animals. This page is designed to provide a brief summary of those hazards, as well as information and resources to help mitigate those risks.
EHS Animal Handler Program
The University’s Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC), in partnership with the U-M Department of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS), works to provide proper assessment and management of the risks associated with the animals and materials used in research through its Animal Handler Occupational Health & Safety Program.
All faculty, staff, and students who:
- Have direct contact with animals;
- Have direct contact with non-sanitized animal caging or enclosures;
- Have direct contact with non-fixed or non-sterilized animal tissues, fluids, or waste;
- And/or provide service support to animal equipment, devices, or facilities
MUST be enrolled in this program.
For a more thorough discussion of the hazards found in animal care facilities, as well as the appropriate safety precautions and methods of control, please review the EHS Animal Safety website.
Occupational Hazards & Safety Concerns
Although allergies may only affect a small percentage of individuals, allergic reactions (including respiratory and skin disorders; eye, nose, and throat irritation; and skin hives) are among the most common and most important of the occupational hazards associated with the care and use of laboratory animals.
Symptoms typically develop within the first year after a person begins working with animals, but may appear several years later.
Procedures, such as those outlined below, should be routinely followed in order to prevent the development of an animal allergy:
- Animals should be housed, as well as manipulated and/or handled, in extremely well-ventilated areas
- Gloves and protective clothing should always be worn to prevent direct exposure to animals, animal urine, and animal dander (small particles of animal hair, feathers, or skin)
- Cages should be changed frequently and surgical masks should be worn during the changing of cages to prevent the inhalation of contaminated material
For more information, please visit the EHS Research & Clinical Safety: Animals website.
EHS reviews all protocols involving hazardous materials to ensure that the appropriate control measures are in place before the IACUC will approve the use of hazardous materials in any research, testing, or teaching activities involving animals.
Depending on the type(s) of hazardous materials used, additional approvals by University oversight committees (e.g., Radiation Policy Committee, Institutional Biosafety Committee) may also be necessary before the IACUC grants approval.
Any activities included in an IACUC-approved protocol that involve the use of hazardous materials must be conducted in accordance with:
- EHS-defined engineering control practices,
- Use of the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and
- All applicable safety policies and standards of practice (SOPs).
Additional safety training is also required for personnel working with hazardous materials. Training requirements are determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the individual’s animal handling details as outlined in the protocol, the type of animal, and the type of chemical and/or hazard(s) that may be encountered throughout the course of the study. Information on how training is assigned can be found on the Training page.
Details on U-M’s containment housing facilities, including how to request space for your project, is available on the Animal Husbandry & Housing page.
Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Although the risk of acquiring infections from laboratory animals is low, many zoonotic diseases can be serious. In order to minimize the risk of contracting a zoonotic disease, it is critical that you follow all posted safety procedures, wear any prescribed PPE, and report any exposure incidents.
For additional information, including proper prevention techniques and what to do in case of an animal bite or scratch, please review EHS’s Animal Safety – Physical Hazards page. Individuals who have sustained an animal bite or scratch should seek the appropriate medical attention to avoid any potential complications.
References and Resources
- U-M Animal Handler Occupational Health & Safety Program
- Protective Equipment for Working with Animals
- Animal Handler Medical Surveillance Program
- Procedures for Entry & Exiting Animal Housing Areas
- Animals Administered a Hazardous Substance Requiring Containment
- Macaque Monkey Bite, Scratch, Exposure SOP
- Procedures for Dog, Cat, or Ferret Bites or Scratches
- U-M Policy on Participation in the OSEH Animal Handler Program
- U-M Policy on Use of Hazardous Materials in Animal Activities
- Questions or concerns about animal use and occupational safety and health should be directed to EHS at OSEH-AnimalSafety@umich.edu or (734) 647-1143.
- Concerns regarding the use of hazardous materials in animal activities should be reported to the Animal Care & Use Office, EHS, the Institutional Official, or through either the Animal Concern Hotline or the Compliance Hotline at (866) 990-0111.