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UCSF Occupational Health and Safety in the Care & Use of Research Animals

Part One: Policy Information (* view entire document as pdf *)

Part Two: Species-Specific Information.
Occupational Health and Safety Information for Staff With Substantial Contact With:
• Birds • Cats • Dogs and Pigs
• Guinea pigs • Macaques • Mice, Rats, Hamsters & Other Rodents
• Non-human Primates • Rabbits • Sheep and Goats

Part Three: LARC Occupational Health and Safety Quick Guide


The UCSF Occupational Health and Safety Program is intended to provide guidelines for establishing a high level of safety for all individuals who are involved in the care and use of research animals. This Program incorporates the requirements of:

  • 8 CCR 3203 (Illness and Injury Prevention Program);
  • the University of California's Systemwide Policy on Health, Safety and Environmental Protection;
  • Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals (National Academy Press, 1997) ;
  • This document by reference.

University of California Systemwide Policy Statement

The following is an excerpt from the UC policy on health and safety:

"The University of California is committed to maintaining a safe environment for its students, academic appointees, staff, visitors, and members of the general public. Further, it is dedicated to minimizing the impact of its operations on the environment surrounding its campuses and laboratory sites. The University has a commitment to promote effective loss reduction and loss prevention measures for the University's property and casualty exposures. It is the policy of the University to conduct its operations in conformance with applicable laws, regulations, and relevant published standards and practices for health, safety and environmental protection."

Program Overview

This Program provides guidance in all areas of occupational health and safety and environmental protection. It is organized by types of hazards and risks, followed by the educational and preventive programs that address those hazards and risks, and concluding with mechanisms to maintain and improve the Program.


  • The UCSF Chancellor and Laboratory Directors are responsible for ensuring the implementation of the Policy on Health, Safety and Environmental Protection at all facilities under their control;
  • UCSF Vice Chancellors, and Deputy and Associate Laboratory Directors are responsible for implementing the Policy in all facilities within their respective jurisdictions;
  • UCSF Deans, Directors, Department Heads, Principal Investigators, and all other managers and supervisors are responsible for compliance with this Policy as it relates to operations under their control in carrying out their day-to-day responsibilities;
  • All UCSF employees, students, and other campus members are responsible for adherence to this Policy in carrying out their day-to-day responsibilities.

Hazard Categories

The general hazards associated with the care and use of animals can be divided into five broad categories:

A) Bites and Scratches

The potential for receiving a bite or scratch is an ever-present hazard that faces all employees working directly with laboratory animals and related equipment. Employees should be properly trained in handling and general restraint techniques of the species they are assigned to. Additionally, all staff should be familiar with first aid procedures specific to each species.

B) Allergens

One of the most common health concerns in the laboratory animal setting is a work-associated allergy. The risk of developing an allergy depends on parameters such as species, facility, ventilation and the employee's "base-line" health status.

The Committee on Occupational Safety and Health in Research Animal Facilities lists four overlapping Risk Groups:

  • Normal: No evidence of allergic disease;
  • Atopic: Pre-existing allergic disease;
  • Asymptomatic: Antibodies to animal allergens;
  • Symptomatic: Clinical symptoms on exposure to allergenic animal proteins.

Symptoms of allergic reaction vary depending on the severity of the reaction and include:

  • Contact urticaria with symptoms such as: redness, itchiness of skin, welts and hives;
  • Allergic conjunctivitis with symptoms such as: sneezing, itchiness, clear nasal drainage, nasal congestion;
  • Allergic rhinitis with symptoms such as: sneezing, itchiness, clear nasal drainage, nasal congestion;
  • Asthma with symptoms such as: cough, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath;
  • Anaphylaxis with symptoms such as: generalized itching, hives, throat tightness, eye or lip swelling, difficulty in swallowing, hoarseness, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea.

C) Protocol Related Hazards

Protocol-related hazards are defined as those specifically associated with either routine operational or experiment-specific protocols. Some general hazards also associated with protocols, such as the risk of fire in the use of bunsen burners or torches, or electrical hazards in the use of experiment-specific equipment are not included in the category of protocol-related hazards. Protocol-related hazards are protocol-specific, for example: hazards associated with the use of a specific viral vector carrying a transgene for toxin production or with a piece of prototype equipment to perform an experimental task.

Experimental studies can involve any number of hazards such as the use of radioactive materials, infectious agents, toxins or toxic chemicals, flammable substances, etc.

General Safety Precautions

  • Successful abatement of protocol-related hazards requires recognition and description of the hazards prior to the start of the experiments. This is primarily the responsibility of the campus technical safety committees, which are Biological Safety Committee, Chemical Safety Committee and Radiation Safety Committee.

The Radioactive and Biological Use Authorization programs identify relevant hazards associated with submitted protocols and work with the PI to abate these hazards by ensuring proper facilities, equipment, training and awareness to the staff involved in the study.


  • If your work involves potential exposure to any biological agents, chemicals, radioactive materials or ionizing radiation, you must attend a training program prior to your exposure to any such hazards.

Investigators using biological, chemical or radioactive materials in animals must post a copy of the Animal Involvement in the Laboratory Animal Resource Center form on the door to the room housing their animals. All Special Conditions relevant to safety will be shown on the Animal Involvement form. This form must be approved by the appropriate committee (i.e., Biological or Radiation Safety).

There are some basic safety precautions that apply to all work environments regardless of the types of hazardous materials used. These include:

  • Read and understand the protocol related procedures before you start the experiment. If necessary do a dry run;
  • Avoid using sharps whenever possible; substitute manually operated pipettes for needles and syringes, and cannulae for needles;
  • Do not recap needles; dispose of them in appropriate sharp containers;
  • Use safety needles and sharp devices.
  • Until you have washed your hands, keep them away from your mouth, nose and eyes;
  • Do not eat, drink or store food in research areas;
  • Do not handle contact lenses in the laboratory;
    Wearing of gloves, lab coat or scrubs is required. Other personal protective equipment such as dust/mist masks or approved respirator masks (e.g., Type N95 by 3M company) are strongly recommended when working with animals;
  • Please read and understand the special safety requirements for each work area (e.g. sheep containment facility) or animal species (e.g. non-human primates);
  • Follow all safety precautions prescribed;
  • Clean all spills immediately;
  • Dispose of all waste materials into the appropriate waste stream;
  • Report all incidents or equipment malfunctions to your supervisor immediately.

Additional information regarding various protocol-related hazard abatement programs may be obtained from www.ehs.ucsf.edu.

D) Zoonoses

Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

Although there are a variety of zoonotic agents in addition to the Herpes B-virus that staff working in this environment should be aware of, it is more likely for a person to injure or contaminate themselves from an experiment mishap in the lab than to contract a disease from an animal.

For additional information please visit Laboratory Animal Resource Center (LARC)

E) Inherent Hazards

There are some potential hazards inherent in any work environment. These include poor ergonomics, slips and falls, electrical safety hazards, etc. UCSF has developed a wide range of environmental health and safety guidelines to address these potential hazards. Additional information may be obtained from www.ehs.ucsf.edu.

F) General Precautions

All employees and students working with animals should be aware that laboratory animals may bite or scratch. In addition, handling of cages, pens and other equipment could cause cuts or scratches. Cuts, bites and scratches could potentially expose the employees to viral, bacterial, parasitic or allergic agents, which are transmissible from animals to humans.

Although the risk of bites and scratches is species dependent, there are a few simple guidelines, which, if followed will significantly reduce the potential risks of such incidents. These include:

  • Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment, especially hand and face/eye protection;
  • If moving large contaminated items (e.g. non-human primate cages), wear heavy gloves;
  • When available and appropriate, use mechanical restrainers when performing procedures on unanesthesized animals;
  • All bites and scratches that result in bleeding should be immediately and thoroughly scrubbed and cleansed with soap and running water for at least 15 minutes;
  • Do not discard or disinfect any object which caused the injury; hold for analysis;
  • Notify supervisor and seek medical attention immediately.