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 they're physical risks 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 with 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 two-three 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. Additional information and guidance on reducing allergen exposure are provided in the Laboratory Animal Allergies Update.
- Physical Hazards: Animal users risk injury from bites and scratches, as well 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. Training on safe work procedures related to animals is available through the Education & Quality Assurance department of the Research Animal Resource Center (RARC).
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 online refresher annually. Additional training in all aspects of animal use and care is provided by RARC. (Intranet Only)
RARC animal care staff receive customized EHS safety training annually.
Exposure and Accident Reporting
Reporting Bites and Scratches: Rodent bites and scratches must be reported and treated following RARC’s procedures. (Intranet Only)
WCM 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 a.m. and 4 p.m. on business days, and is located in the Payson House basement at 1315 York Avenue.
WCM Students: Student Health Services provides annual health assessments and post-exposure medical assessments for students. Student Health Services is open between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on business days. Report immediately to Student Health Services, located at 230 E 69th Street. More Information
Emergency Medical Assistance for WCM Students, Faculty and Staff: For more severe exposures/injuries, or injuries occurring during nights, weekends or holidays, report immediately to either:
- NewYork-Presbyterian 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.