Common Occupational Health and Safety Program-wide Pitfalls*
Instead of being based on hazard identification and risk assessment, the program identifies personnel risk based on animal contact time or frequency.
There is inadequate training on occupational health and safety topics (e.g., zoonoses, allergies).
Not all personnel at risk (e.g., students, visiting scientists) are offered inclusion in the program.
Hazard identification covers experimental hazards, but does not address hazards intrinsic to animal care and use.
There is inadequate linkage between the IACUC and the institutional safety committee(s).
*From data collected by AAALAC International.
References CDC/NIH. 1999. Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, 4th Edition. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
Holmes, G.P. et al. 1995. Guidelines for the prevention and treatment of B-virus infections in exposed persons. Clin. Infect. Dis. 20:421-439.
National Research Council. 1997. Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.
Preventing Asthma in Animal Handlers. 1998. NIOSH/DHHS, Cincinnati, OH.
Criteria for a recommended standard occupational exposure to waste anesthetic gases and vapors. March 1977. DHEW Pub. No. (NIOSH) 77-140.
Occupational Health and Safety Administration Standards 29 CFR 1910.1030. Bloodborne pathogens.
Occupational Health and Safety Administration Standards 29 CFR 1910.1450. Occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories.
Hollander, A., G. Doekes, and D. Heederik. 1996. Cat and dog allergy and total IgE as risk factors for laboratory animal allergy. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 98:545-554.
Knysak, D. 1989. Animal aeroallergens. Immunol.Allergy Clin. No. Amer. 9:357-364.
B.5. Personnel Training and Education
All staff working with laboratory animals must be qualified to do so in order to ensure the humane treatment of animals. Training is a classic performance standard where the emphasis is on the outcome (i.e., all personnel qualified to do their jobs). Although the PHSPolicy and Animal Welfare Regulations (AWRs) do not specify a particular program or the frequency with which a program should be offered, the requirement for competence is mandatory.
The AWRs, in Sec. 2.32 (a) and (b), specify:
It shall be the responsibility of the research facility to ensure that all scientists, research technicians, animal technicians, and other personnel involved in animal care, treatment, and use are qualified to perform their duties. This responsibility shall be fulfilled in part through the provision of training and instruction to those personnel. Training and instruction shall be made available, and the qualifications of personnel reviewed, with sufficient frequency to fulfill the research facility's responsibilities….
The PHSPolicy, Section IV.C.1.f. places responsibility specifically with the IACUC to ensure that personnel conducting procedures on research animals are appropriately qualified and trained in those procedures. Personnel training in the care and use of research animals is an important aspect of the alternatives concept (replacement, reduction and refinement) described in Section C.2.b. Training in the recognition and alleviation of animal pain, distress, and abnormalities addresses refinement. Similarly, training in the conduct of animal procedures prepares staff to work without causing unnecessary harm to the animal. Technical proficiency also invokes reduction by avoiding wasted animal lives through failed procedures.
Personnel training should be seen as one of the pillars supporting the animal research program. Training of staff is essential for safeguarding the quality of the animals as a tool of research or testing. A lack of training may
result in inadequate husbandry and poor peri-procedural care, which can undermine the physiological status of the animal thereby potentially impair-ing the integrity of research results.
Who Should Receive Training?
All staff should receive training if they interact directly with or work in the vicinity of animals. Training made available for each type of staff should be specific to the animal species involved and to the kind of procedures to be performed or animal-related interactions.
For training purposes, staff can be grouped as:
animal care technicians, and
other (e.g., maintenance or support staff).
In some institutions, staff may not be clearly divisible into these groups if job responsibilities are more diversified than this classification suggests. For example, facility staff such as animal health technicians may have job functions that include both animal care and research procedures.
Training should also be made available to temporary staff, such as students and visiting scientists. These groups may be difficult to intercept for training unless there is a way to identify them.
Development of a Training Program
A training program should meet the needs of each type of staff, as described above, who work with or around laboratory animals. There are many training resources and methodologies that can be used in the development of a training program: courses, seminars, one-on-one training, conferences, computer-based media and videotapes. When appropriate for the job responsibilities, technicians should be encouraged to pursue certification by professional associations, such as technician certification by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science and the Academy of Surgical Research.
All staff should have exposure through training to regulatory requirements for animal welfare and occupational health and safety considerations. Staff who work directly with animals should have training that supports the humane care and use of animals in the course of day-to-day procedures.
The AWRs, in Sec. 2.32 (c), require that training and instruction of personnel must include guidance in at least the following areas:
Humane methods of animal maintenance and experimentation, including:
The basic needs of each species of animal;
(ii) Proper handling and care for the various species of animals used by the facility;
(iii) Proper pre-procedural and post-procedural care of animals; and
(iv) Aseptic surgical methods and procedures;
(2) The concept, availability, and use of research or testing methods that limit the use of animals or minimize animal distress;
(3) Proper use of anesthetics, analgesics, and tranquilizers for any spe-cies of animals used by the facility;
(4) Methods whereby deficiencies in animal care and treatment are re-ported, including deficiencies in animal care and treatment reported by any employee of the facility.
(5) Utilization of services (e.g., National Agricultural Library, National Library of Medicine) available to provide information:
On appropriate methods of animal care and use;
On alternatives to the use of live animals in research;
That could prevent unintended and unnecessary duplication of research involving animals; and
Regarding the intent and requirements of the [Animal Welfare] Act.
Training programs should also include information on occupational health and safety. Specific recommendations for general training objectives may be obtained from the Education and Training in the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals: A Guide for Developing Institutional Programs. Recommendations for general training objectives are outlined in Table A for each type of staff.
Although there is no specific requirement to document individual training activities, training records demonstrate that staff have met the training requirements related to their responsibilities in the research animal program, and regulatory or other oversight authorities often request to inspect personnel training records as evidence of an effective program.
Training records have value in tracking the range of topics offered, the frequency of training sessions, and the participation of institutional staff. Such records may include training received in informal settings, e.g., one-on-one instruction, common for teaching animal use methodologies.
Training records may be archived with the IACUC, a training coordinator, research departments or individual laboratories. Whatever the location, training records should be accessible to inspection by any oversight authority, including the IACUC. If training records of research staff are stored in laboratories, a good practice would be to include a brief review of training records among the objectives for the IACUC’s semiannual inspec-tions of facilities.
Many institutions with a large research program have a training coordinator to oversee the training program for all personnel with animal care and use training needs. The training coordinator should be involved in IACUC meet-ings when institutional training issues are discussed.
Training coordinators should not be the only ones with training responsi-bilities. The facility staff, (e.g. veterinarians, veterinary technicians, facility managers and animal care technicians), also should be involved in training activities to the greatest extent possible. Their training activities, either with individuals or groups, should be acknowledged as a valuable contribution to the animal research program. In this way, individual expertise is fully utilized and every contact with facility staff offers a training opportunity.
In addition, other staff or outside consultants with specialized expertise can be incorporated into the training program. For example, occupational health professionals may be invited to take part in training on safety related issues. Training in specialized animal methodologies may be best performed by researchers who are accomplished in these techniques. Training program staff, if available, should participate in or oversee the training by outside experts to ensure that the training content is appropriate.
Institutional Support of Training
A high level of staff participation in a training program is essential for achieving the performance standard of staff qualifications necessary for quality research and expected by regulatory authorities. Institutions with mandatory training programs often have the most uniform results.
When training is not mandatory, there is much that an institution can do to encourage participation in the training program. When senior management and IACUC members take part in formal training programs, (e.g. on compliance issues), staff recognize an imperative to attend these sessions. The involvement of outside speakers with recognized expertise is often successful to draw larger groups to a training session. Letters urging staff participation in training programs are effective when sent by senior administrators and the IACUC to department chairpersons and principal investigators.
Methods that increase awareness and availability of information within the institution are valuable to support a training program. A combination of a training manual, newsletters, mailings, posted flyers, brochures and a Web site inform staff about the requirements for training, the institution’s animal welfare standards, and the services available in the training program.
Russell, W. M. S. and R. L. Burch. 1959. The Principles of Humane Experimental Techniques. Methuen & Co., London. (Reprinted as a Special Edition in 1992 by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.)
NRC (National Research Council). 1991. Education and Training in the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals: A Guide for Developing Institutional Programs. A report of the Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources Committee on Educational Programs in Laboratory Animal Science. National Academy Press, Washington D.C.