The Need for Protective Clothing
Working with laboratory animals exposes research personnel and students to unique risks: in addition to the usual hazards associated with all laboratory work (e.g., cuts, scratches, burns), there are the added risk of injury from bites and scratches, zoonotic disease infections and development of animal-associated allergies.
Allergic reactions are one of the most common conditions adversely affecting personnel involved with the care and use of research animals. It has been reported in the scientific literature that nearly half of individuals working with laboratory animals will eventually experience work-related allergic symptoms such as contact rashes, nasal congestion and sneezing, itchy eyes and asthma.
Research personnel also pose a threat to the health of research animals on campus, as humans carry a number of infectious organisms that may be harmful to animals, especially those that are genetically modified. Individuals with pets at home can also carry infectious agents from the home to their research animals and vice versa.
Required and Recommended Equipment
To safeguard both research personnel and laboratory animals on campus, research personnel must utilize the personal protective equipment appropriate for their specific research.
- Surgical scrubs and/or a lab coat should be worn only while working with the animals.
- Dedicated clothing must be laundered on a routine basis.
- Appropriate full length pants (or equivalent); the area of skin between the pants and shoe should not be exposed.
- Closed toe/heel shoes must be worn in laboratory and vivarium areas at all times.
- Disposable shoe covers are required in some areas, and recommended to reduce the transfer of potentially infectious agents and allergens.
- Disposable vinyl, latex or nitrile examination gloves reduce direct skin contact with animals and their allergens.
- Examination gloves should be discarded after each use and not worn throughout the facility.
- Protective gloves may be needed to protect against scratches, bites and for procedures with an increased risk of serious injury or infection.
Eye, Face, and Respiratory Protection
- Protective eyewear (goggles and/or face shields) must be used in any area where there is reasonable probability of eye injury, including use of corrosive liquids, radiation, lasers, chemicals, etc.
- Disposable masks should be used to reduce the amount of airborne particulate and allergens that may be inhaled by individuals working with laboratory animals.
- Personnel working in areas where they may be exposed to contaminated airborne particulate material or vapors must have suitable respiratory protection with respirator fit-testing and training in the proper use and care of the equipment.
Additional Equipment to Protect Animals:
- Disposable gowns are required in most vivarium areas and are available just inside the entrance of most facilities.
- Masks, hair and shoe covers are required for admittance to certain animal housing and procedure areas.
- Researchers MUST follow all ULAR guidance regarding rodent housing room classifications and safe traffic flow between vivarium areas.
- Bush, R.K. and Stave, G.M., “Laboratory Animal Allergy: An Update”, ILAR J 2003; 44(1): 28-51
- Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, National Academy Press, 2011.
- Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals, National Academy Press, 1997