Occupational Health and Safety
Wayne State University as an institution receiving Public Health Service funding is required to have an occupational health and safety program for animal research employees. The program applies to personnel who in the conduct of their work in research, testing and teaching have direct contact with animals, their tissues, body fluids, wastes and/or indirect animal aerosol exposure. Provisions extended to employees will vary according to assessed risk and may include: health evaluations (e.g. physical exams), health care support for preventive measures such as vaccination and incidents such as animal bite or slip and fall injury.
Who conducts the program?
The program has several components including the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, the Division of Risk Management, the university's Biosafety Committee, the Division of Laboratory Animal Resources and the Detroit Medical Center's Occupational Health Services. Further information may be found at www.oehs.wayne.edu
Who should participate?
Promoting the health and safety of all Wayne State employees who work with laboratory animals or animal originated tissues or fluids is very important. All persons who work in laboratory animal facilities or in jobs where significant contact with animals, their tissues, body fluids, wastes and/or indirect animal aerosol exposure occurs should be aware of the university's program. Items of particular importance concerning the occupational health and safety program are:
Reporting injury or illness
Any injury or illness that is work related should be evaluated by the Occupational Health Service located at the University Health Center (area 4K) in the Detroit Medical Center.
The Occupational Health Service can be contacted by calling (313) 745-4522.
An employee's supervisor should always be informed of a work related injury or illness so instructions for obtaining a medical examination or seeking appropriate treatment can be given.
Pregnant employees must report their pregnancy status to their supervisor as soon as possible. This allows planning of work assignments according to risk factors. Advisories or restriction(s) per physician statement should be submitted to supervisory staff. The university may seek advice from an occupational medicine physician concerning permissible work assignments.
It is particularly important that eating, drinking, smoking or applying cosmetics not be done in areas where animals are housed or used. Frequent hand washing and daily showers and/or baths are important common sense ways for maintaining good personal hygiene. Clean laboratory coats should be used over street clothes, or work uniforms should be provided.
Animal studies with special safety requirements should have room door postings listing requirements for entry such as donning of gowns, masks and gloves. Specific procedural methods relevant to biohazard containment should also be posted on the door. Hearing protection devices such as ear plugs or special muffs should be worn in noisy areas.
Employees are strongly encouraged to be current on all vaccinations normal for their age group as this is one of the most important aspects of any preventative medicine program. Personal vaccination history records should be brought to the Occupational Health Service (Area 4K at the University Health Center) at time of any health screen appointment or when specifically requesting vaccinations. It is of particular importance for animal research workers to be protected against tetanus. A tetanus booster is needed every ten years. Vaccination for rabies is not mandatory, but is available through the Occupational Health Service. Vaccination for rabies is strongly encouraged for animal facility workers who work with pound originated cats and dogs. Special vaccinations such as for Hepatitis B may also be recommended for unique research situations.
Most injuries can be prevented or kept to a very low incidence if safety precautions are followed. Animal facility workers typically perform a multitude of tasks many of which are physically demanding. Types of injuries which can occur include falls, slips, and injuries related to lifting. The use of heat for sanitation or sterilization purposes can lead to burn injuries. Similarly, many chemicals such as detergents and disinfectants are commonly used. Accidental skin and eye exposure such as splashing can occur if safety precautions are not used (i.e. goggles, face shield).
Zoonotic diseases and other infectious disease concerns
A zoonosis is an infection or infectious disease transmissible under natural conditions from vertebrate animals to man. Humans usually are not susceptible to most infectious diseases suffered by animals, however, the potential exists through environmental exposure and by handling animals, body fluids, cultured microbial pathogens, tissues and tumors. Infection in animals may sometimes produce severe disease in humans even when the animals appear healthy. One should be aware of possible consequences when working with each species of animal. Tissues and/or tumors from humans are potential sources of infectious material and should be screened for infectious agents prior to utilization in animals. HIV and hepatitis B viruses are examples of agents of concern. Personnel who are immunocompromised may be at greater risk of infection. If you become ill, it is important to let the physician caring for you know that you work with animals and/or pathogens.
Good laboratory practices and common sense can lessen the risk of infection and accidents. The CDC/NIH manual, Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, provides guidance on biosafety procedures for a wide spectrum of microbial agents with potential for human infection. The manual, Control of Communicable Disease in Man, published by the American Public Health Association is another excellent resource for information on zoonotic diseases and infection control.
Experimentation involving hazardous agents
Monitoring the safe handling and use of hazardous agents in animals is accomplished through the joint efforts of the DLAR, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety and the Office of Health Physics. Additionally, these units are assisted in the development of policies, procedures and monitoring criteria by the university's Animal Investigation Committee, the Biosafety Committee, and the Radiation Safety and Radioisotope Committee.
Office of Environmental Health and Safety
Division of Laboratory Animal Resources