Working with animals presents its own special risks and students, researchers and animal care staff must be familiar with these risks and how to reduce them. Whether it’s a physical risk such as bites or scratches, health risks such as zoonoses or allergens or chemical risks from hazardous materials or anesthetic gases, animal handlers should be trained on the proper procedures for working safely with animals.
The common hazards encountered by animal handlers include:
- Allergies: According to information published by the National Research Council, allergic reactions to animals are the most common hazard for animal-care workers with 10% - 44% of all regularly exposed workers developing symptoms. Symptoms usually evolve over a 2-3 year period and those with pre-existing allergies are more susceptible. Nasal symptoms, itchy eyes and rashes are the most common symptoms experienced. Up to 10% of workers with allergic symptoms may acquire occupational-induced asthma after prolonged exposure.
- Physical Hazards: Animal users risk injury from care bites or scratches and sharps such as needles or scalpels. Animal care staff may be exposed to additional physical hazards including machinery, noise, and ergonomic issues.
- Chemicals: Animal handlers may come in contact with hazardous agents used in animal research and anesthetic gases. Both researchers and animal care staff must follow established procedures to prevent chemical exposures. Information on safe work procedures is available in the Research Animal Resource Center (RARC) RARC User’s Guide
The EHS Safety Program Manual is a collection of safety requirements and resources including chemical, biological, radiation and fire safety; spill planning and response; pollution prevention and waste disposal; hazardous materials transportation; and general safety.
Laboratory personnel must attend the Laboratory Safety Training course upon the start of work and the on-line refresher annually. Additional training in all aspects of animal use and care is provided by RARC.
RARC animal care staff receive customized EHS safety training annually. (more information)
Exposure and Accident Reporting
Reporting Animal Bites and Scratches: Animal bites and scratches must be reported and treated following RARC’s procedures as outlined in the RARC User’s Guide.
WCMC Faculty and Staff: Workforce Health and Safety provides health assessments and post-incident/exposure medical assessments for employees. Workforce Health and Safety is open between 8 am and 4 pm on business days and is located in the Payson House basement at 1315 York Avenue.
WCMC Students: Student Health Services provides annual health assessments and post-exposure medical assessments for students. Student Health Services is open between 8 am and 4 pm on business days. Report immediately to Student Health Services located at 418 East 71st Street, Suite 21. (more information)
Emergency Medical Assistance for WCMC Students, Faculty and Staff: For more severe exposures/injuries or injuries occurring during nights, weekends or holidays, report immediately to either:
- NewYork Presbryterian Hospital Emergency Room: walk-in entrance is located at 68th Street and York Avenue. (map)
- NYP Emergency Medical Services: call 212-472-2222 to have emergency medical assistance sent to your location. Follow-up with Workforce Health and Safety or Student Health Services on the next business day.