This policy is based on regulations and recommendations detailed in various governmental laws and guidelines, most notably:

Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals (Institute for Laboratory Animal Research - ILAR)
National Institutes of Health (Office of Animal Care and Use - OACU)
Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
Institutional Animal Care Use Committee (IACUC) Guidebook (National Institutes of Health)
Connecticut College - Laboratory Safety Handbook

The Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) recommends that a comprehensive laboratory animal safety program include 9 key elements:

  • Administrative Procedures
  • Facility Design and Operation
  • Exposure Control
  • Education and Training
  • Hazard Communication
  • Equipment Performance
  • Information Management
  • Emergency Procedures
  • Program Evaluation

This document describes how Connecticut College addresses those elements, and details specific procedures that researchers and students are required to follow when working in the Laboratory Animal Care Facility (LACF).

Administrative Procedures

Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment: Describes the process used to identify and evaluate potential hazards, such as animal bites, chemical and radiation exposures, allergens and zoonoses, inherent or intrinsic to the use of animals. At Connecticut College, the laboratory animal care facility director, and the Director of Environmental Health and Safety have assessed the potential hazards to animal care workers and researchers. This assessment was made by examination of existing animal care and use protocols, and discussions regarding ongoing research activities. Occupational health and safety procedures have been developed to address the specific needs of the college's animal use program, which is confined to a single laboratory (and animal care facility).

Implementation of Safety Procedures: Procedures that involve the use of infectious agents, recombinant-DNA molecules, hazardous chemicals, radioactive materials or animals, may present unique hazards, and are routinely assessed as part of the normal IACUC project review process. A hierarchy of procedures has been implemented that utilizes administrative and engineering controls. These include exposure control procedures and use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Communication: Because of the small size and the limited nature of Connecticut College's animal research activities, there is excellent communication between researchers, animal care workers, the animal care facility director, the IACUC and the Director of Environmental Health and Safety. For example, the animal care facility director is also the principal investigator on the majority of research projects involving animals.

Facility Design and Operation

Location: The Connecticut College Laboratory Animal Care Facility (LACF) is located on the second floor of Bill Hall. Bill Hall also houses the Department of Psychology, and some functions of the Information Services (IS) Department.

Facility Design: There is a suite of 3 rooms designed to house rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, and pigeons. Each room is equipped with a timer to regulate the light/dark schedule. The entire suite is temperature and humidity controlled. The facility is equipped with a non-porous floor, floor drains and a water source in each animal room for ease of cleaning. The animals are housed in either polycarbonate cages or hanging metal cages, which are easy to clean and transport.

Operations: The personnel responsible for the daily operation of the LACF are 2 work-study students and the LACF director, who oversees, directs and assists with operations. The routine activities in the LACF have been established with the personnel’s health and safety in mind. Ergonomic cleaning procedures have been established. Food and shavings are kept in wheeled bins to allow easy access and transport. Researchers working with animals are instructed in the proper transportation of animals in Bill Hall, which is not equipped with an elevator. Animals are transported in their home cage (or a polycarbonate cage if the home cage is hanging metal), which is covered at all times. Researchers are instructed to carry only 1 cage and to be accompanied by another researcher who can open and close doors.

Exposure Control

Chemical Safety: The chemical safety plan is distributed to all laboratory researchers as part of the Laboratory Safety Handbook. All chemical cleaning agents are reviewed and approved for use by the CM animal facility supervisor. Animal facility group leaders train CM technicians in the use and storage of these agents, including wearing appropriate PPE. Animal care workers are instructed in the proper use of disinfectant cage cleaning materials and the need for personal protection (gloves, lab coat and eye protection).

Occupational Health and Immunization: Students at Connecticut College are required to be properly immunized against certain communicable diseases. No other medical evaluation is required before beginning animal care or research. The college provides students with a health service during the school year (described at: Student Health Services). Safety procedures detailed in the Laboratory Safety Handbook are designed to prevent laboratory-related medical issues from arising.

Engineering Controls in the LACF: The LACF is situated in a locked suite of rooms. The animal housing rooms have their own locked door. The animal housing rooms are each equipped with exhaust air ventilation systems. Necropsy activities take place in a separate room, inside a chemical fume hood.

Engineering Controls in Research (Laboratory) Areas: There are two laboratories in the Neuroscience Department in Bill Hall. Both labs are equipped with a chemical fume hood. All work involving radiological, chemical and biological materials is conducted inside those fume hoods.

Work Practices in the LACF: Researchers are instructed to use protective clothing, gloves, masks and eye protection to avoid exposure to soiled cages and bedding during the cleaning process. The LACF is kept clean with weekly dusting and twice-weekly mopping. Specific training in cage cleaning is provided, with the goal of avoiding exposure to cleaning agents and of performing the cleaning in an ergonomically-correct manner.

Work Practices in Research Areas: Researchers are instructed to use protective clothing, gloves, and masks to avoid exposure to urine, feces, and allergenic agents associated with animal subjects. Researchers are provided with extensive training for handling animals safely to avoid bites and to minimize experimenter-induced stress in the animals. Safe practices to avoid percutaneous exposure include use of disposable sheathed needles, which are discarded in a sharps container designed for that purpose, and appropriate clothing and gloves to prevent animal scratches. Procedures to avoid exposure by ingestion include posted restrictions on eating, drinking and smoking in research areas. Researchers are instructed in proper handling of chemicals as described in the Laboratory Safety Handbook.

Specific Procedures

Radioactive Materials (RAM): Radioactive materials are obtained and used in compliance with our NRC license. The Connecticut College Laboratory Safety Handbook outlines specific RAM procedures, including periodic surveys for radiation contamination. Students are provided with training before beginning research activities, as described under Education and Training below.

Waste Disposal:

Hazardous Waste: Hazardous chemical waste is managed in accordance with federal and state regulations, and stored in the 180 day Hazardous Waste Storage Facility.

Radioactive Waste: Radioactive waste is collected and stored in the Radioactive Waste Storage Facility in accordance with federal and state regulations. Note: At present, radioactive materials are not used in live animals. Rather, RAM is used on tissue collected, following euthanization.

Biological and Pathological Waste: Biological and pathological waste is rendered non-infectious, then transported to the Biological Waste Storage Facility, in the basement of the Student Health Center.

Animal (Rat) Bites: (Non-human primates are not used at Connecticut College.)
The animal care facility director is responsible for training anyone who is authorized to handle rats and/or other laboratory animals. Researchers and animal care personnel are instructed in the proper handling of animals, to prevent bites and to minimize human and animal discomfort. If animals exhibit aggressive behavior, “bite-resistant” gloves are available for use. If a technician receives does receive an animal bite, that person will immediately secure the animal in its original housing, notify the animal facility supervisor and proceed to Health Services for medical attention. An Occupational Incident/Injury form will be completed and sent to the Occupational Health & Wellness Coordinator, via their supervisor. The injured person, the facility supervisor and the Director of Environmental Health & Safety will review the incident and make recommendations to prevent the incident from reoccurring.

Allergens: Animal care workers and researchers are made aware of the potential for developing allergic reactions to rats. The risk of this is minimized by the use of adequate personal protection, including lab coats that do not leave the animal facility or the laboratory, and the use of disposable gloves and disposable masks. Nitrile gloves are used because latex gloves may lead to latex sensitization. Animal facility supervisors oversee the requirement of the vivarium staff to wear PPE when working in the vivarium. Scientists and visitors are not allowed access to the vivarium until they have fulfilled qualifications set forth by the Respirator Program. If a person becomes allergic to an animal species, they are given medical attention and adjustments to their daily schedule. The adjustments made by vivarium management may include the use of PAPR (personal air powered respirators), assignment to another species, facility or job.

Education and Training

The Director of Environmental Health and Safety conducts annual Hazard Communication training for faculty, staff and students who use hazardous materials. Radiation Use training for authorized users is conducted by the Director of Environmental Health and Safety, but may also be performed by the Principal Investigator, provided he/she ensures that required topics are covered. Training records are maintained by the Director of Environmental Health and Safety.

Specific Training Involving Animal Use

Class projects: General information about laboratory safety is provided at the initial laboratory meeting each semester. Students are introduced to the Connecticut College Laboratory Safety Handbook and are given specific instructions regarding the use of animals and the operation of the animal care facility. Additional training is provided as classroom activities warrant.

Individual Study projects and Honors Thesis Research Projects: Individual students are made aware of the policies stated in the Connecticut College Laboratory Safety Handbook and given specific instructions depending on their research project. It is always the case that projects are monitored by a researcher with many years of experience.
Hazard Communication

OSHA requires that hazard information be readily available to employees. The primary source of this information is the container label, and the chemical's MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet.) A comprehensive online database of MSDS' for chemicals found at Connecticut College, is located at Emergency Spill response is detailed in the Integrated Contingency Plan. (This document is accessible only to CamelWeb account holders.) An emergency phone is located in the 180 day storage facility. A standard phone is located in the laboratory animal care facility.

Program Evaluation

The animal care program, which includes the occupational health and safety guidelines presented here, is evaluated by the IACUC every 6 months. The veterinarian member of the IACUC provides expert advice on proper procedures for animal care and experienced researchers provide guidance on reasonable and necessary safety procedures related to research projects. The environmental health and safety officer conducts annual inspections of the laboratory facility, including areas where animal research is conducted.