The veterinarian occupies an essential position on the IACUC with specific defined functions according to the PHSPolicy and AWRs. Institutions em-ploying several veterinarians may appoint more than one to the IACUC, but all institutions regardless of size must have at least one veterinarian with direct or delegated program authority and responsibility as a member of the IACUC. A strong veterinary presence on the IACUC has proven
beneficial in many institutions. However, institutions should also be aware that the domination of IACUC activities by the veterinarian(s) may foster or be symptomatic of the disengagement of other members, thereby resulting in a less cohesive and effective IACUC.
The veterinarian should keep abreast of current literature on comparative medicine and laboratory animal science. The knowledge gained often leads to suggestions for alternative techniques, models or species that may enhance animal well-being, augment the study design and help ensure the completion of the proposed study.
References American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine. 1996. Report of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine on Adequate Veterinary Care in Research, Testing and Teaching.
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B.4. Occupational Health and Safety
The health and safety of individuals working in animal care and use pro-grams is an area of institutional concern requiring commitment from the senior officials of the institution. The goal of the occupational health and safety program (OHSP) is to prevent occupational injury and illness by avoiding, controlling or eliminating hazards in the workplace. The em-phasis of such a program is the prevention of illness and injury, but it also includes provisions for early diagnosis and treatment when necessary.
The IACUC’s Responsibility for Occupational Health and Safety The PHSPolicy places responsibility for ensuring a safe working environ-ment for personnel involved in the animal care and use program with the institution. An effective OHSP interdigitates with many separate institu-tional components including animal care and use, research, environmental health and safety, occupational health, and administration and manage-ment. A natural point of convergence for these functionally distinct institu-tional elements at many institutions is the IACUC. Assurance of a safe working environment is one of the topics the IACUC should consider in each animal use proposal and as part of the semiannual program evaluation. It is generally necessary to involve health and safety special-ists in the design and implementation of the IACUC review guidelines.
Role of the IACUC in the Occupational Health and Safety Program Procedures should be developed for conducting a health and safety re-view of research activities that present hazards. These procedures should be incorporated into the IACUC protocol review process. Procedures to identify and address non-experimental hazards (e.g., during semiannual facility inspections and program reviews) should also be implemented. Communication and other procedural links between the IACUC and the environmental health and safety professional or office should be established, maintained and documented. In some institutions, IACUCs defer review of OHSP to an office of health and safety review.
The IACUC has a role in ensuring that personnel comply with health and safety requirements (e.g., ensuring personnel have received appropriate training, evaluating compliance with standard operating procedures or institutional policy during semiannual facility inspections, etc.).
Elements of an Occupational Health and Safety Program An effective program design requires input from health and safety special-ists and will include the following elements:
The details of each element will be dictated by the extent and nature of employees’ exposure and the type of animal use program.
Personnel Participation in the Occupational Health
and Safety Program A wide range of personnel (e.g., animal care staff, investigators, technical staff, students, volunteers, engineers, housekeepers, security officers, and maintenance personnel who care for or use animals, their tissues or fluids, or who may be exposed to them as a consequence of their job) should be provided the opportunity to participate in the OHSP.
The extent and level of participation of personnel in the OHSP should be based on risk assessment, including:
hazards posed by the animals and materials used;
exposure intensity, duration, and frequency;
susceptibility of personnel; and
history of occupational illness and injury in the workplace.
Health and safety specialists should be involved in the assessment of risks associated with hazardous activities.
Education and Training
There are ethical and legal requirements to inform individuals of health risks that affect them and appropriate precautions. The objectives of an institution’s OHSP can be achieved only if employees are appropriately trained to understand the hazards associated with their work area and job duties, and how those risks are mitigated through institutional policies, engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment.
Training should include information about:
microbiologic and physical hazards (e.g., allergens and radiation),
hazards associated with experimental procedures,
handling of waste materials, and
Proficiency in work assignments through education and training will also contribute to a safer work environment. Training should be a continuous process, and records of OHSP training of personnel should be maintained.
Preventive Medicine and Provision of Medical Care The principal means of preventing occupationally acquired illness or injury is by controlling or eliminating hazards. The efficacy of the prevention program will depend on the institution’s resource allocation to hazard control and the cooperation or compliance of personnel who are potentially at risk. The quality of the preventive medicine program can also be increased if its development and implementation involves input from trained health professionals.
In addition to established mechanisms for reporting and treating accidents and injuries, the institution should have access to medical expertise in zoonotic diseases and other health risks associated with laboratory animal care. Good communication with medical staff will also facilitate better man-gement of the health of animal care personnel and minimize repeat injuries and infections.
Specific Medical Concerns for Individuals Working in the
Animal Research Evironment The complexity of the animal research environment creates numerous classes of hazards.
Physical hazards include:
animal bites, scratches, and kicks;
high pressure containers and equipment;
low or single color lighting in animal rooms resulting in poor visibility;
electric hazards, particularly in areas of water usage;
ultraviolet and ionizing radiation;
lasers used in surgical areas;
inadequate housekeeping practices;
Chemical hazards result from their flammable, corrosive, reactive, ex-plosive or toxic properties. Burns and irritation of the skin are the most common chemical injuries related to animal care and use.
Allergic reactions to animals, occasionally resulting in the development of occupation-related asthma, are among the most common conditions that adversely affect the health of personnel in the animal research environment. Estimates of the prevalence of allergies in animal care workers range from 10% to 44%. Preplacement screening evaluations, attention to facility design, work practices, and the use of personal protective equipment can reduce the potential development of laboratory animal allergy and possibly alter its severity.
Infectious diseases also pose a significant risk depending on the species and health status of animals involved and the level of exposure to them by animal care personnel.
Infectious diseases to which animal care personnel may be exposed include:
viral infections, such as contagious ecthyma, the hepatitides, and Cercopithecine herpes virus 1 (Herpes B);
rickettisal diseases, such as Q fever and cat scratch fever;
bacterial diseases, such as tuberculosis, salmonellosis, and shigellosis;
protozoal diseases, such as toxoplasmosis, giardiasis, and crypto-sporidiosis; and
fungal diseases, such as dermatomycosis.
In addition to infections acquired from live animals, animal tissues and excreta can serve as sources of zoonoses. Careful monitoring and quaran-tine of any animals with potential viral or bacterial infections or parasitic infestations are crucial components of any animal care and use program. It is important to immunize animal care personnel against tetanus. Routine tuberculosis testing is essential and measles vaccination may also be appropriate for workers exposed to nonhuman primates.