The AUHSP Working Group holds monthly meetings to evaluate all Protocol Review and Amendment Forms submitted for IACUC approval to identify occupational health and safety concerns. Animal facility inspections are conducted by facility managers, EHS, CARE, and IACUC members on an semi-annual basis.
EHS reviews incident reports submitted by individuals working with animals. The risk assessment form must be completed by all faculty, staff, students, visiting scholars, contractors, and volunteers who have direct or indirect exposure to Cornell-owned vertebrate research and training animals.
Individuals with preexisting allergic conditions face a greater risk of developing allergies to animals. Most common symptoms include nasal discharge, itchy eyes, and skin rashes. If ignored, reactions can lead to more severe symptoms, such as asthma (cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath) and may persist beyond the period of animal exposure. In extreme cases, life-threatening anaphylactic reactions can occur.
Animal Bites, Kicks and Scratches
Bites and scratches are the most common physical hazards encountered when working with animals, especially with dogs, cats, or rodents. Kicks and crushing injuries occur more frequently with larger species, such as horses or cows. In many cases, these physical hazards are preventable by following safe practices to ensure proper animal handling. Recommendations on how to proceed in the case of an animal-related injury are provided in ACUP 707 - Animal Related Injury.
Sharps pose a risk for personnel working with animals. Special care is needed when using needles and scalpel blades to avoid injuries. Puncture-resistant, leakproof disposal containers need to be available wherever sharps are used.
Animals, such as pigs or dogs, and equipment, like pressure washers or cage washers, can cause intense noise. Personnel exposed to noise levels exceeding 85 dBA must be part of the Hearing Conservation Program as legally mandated by the Federal Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If engineering controls are not successful at mitigating the noise, hearing protection devices, such as earplugs or earmuffs, should be worn. Look here for additional information about the Hearing Conservation Program at Cornell University.
Repetitive motion and lifting of heavy loads can pose a hazard in animal facilities. Repetitive motion, such as cleaning cages by hand, results in the repetition of small stresses that may lead to cumulative injuries. Lifting heavy bags of food or large animals contribute to back injuries. Tasks must be varied to reduce the number of repetitions. Properly designed equipment should be used to assist with lifting of heavy loads. Refer to the Cornell University Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Program site for more information.
Biological, Chemical, and Radiological Hazards
Unless experimentally infected with a zoonotic agent, research animals generally carry a limited number of infectious microorganisms of concern to animal users. Specific zoonotic hazards are outlined on the CARE Zoonoses web page. General recommendations for identifying and preventing hazards during field studies are outlined in an AUHSP fact sheet on Field studies.
Chemical hazards such as disinfectants, fixatives, pesticides, anesthetic gases, as well as toxic chemicals, are commonly used for experimental purposes and require conscious handling. When using chemicals, personnel should wear appropriate protective equipment, and be familiar with the information summarized in the specific Material Safety Data Sheets.
Radiation is another hazard for those exposed to X rays, gamma rays, or radioactive isotopes. Appropriate training and the use of personnel protective equipment are required. The Office of Radiation Safety of the Department of EHS at Cornell University should be contacted for assistance before using radioactive materials in animal facilities or if an accidental exposure occurs.
Special Health Concerns
Individuals with certain health problems/conditions may be at an increased risk if exposed to infectious agents. Some examples of these conditions include: immunosuppression, pregnancy, liver disease, respiratory or kidney disease, or heart problems.