Working in PSU Lab Animal Facilities

All personnel entering Penn State laboratory animal facilities are expected to follow PSU and ARP recommended procedures for appropriate attire, equipment use and waste disposal. Entrance into animal facilities is limited to staff and students with approved key card access. Animal users must complete Facility Orientation training provided by ARP prior to gaining key card access. This training includes important information on animal husbandry and care, appropriate attire for work in the facility and safe use of facility equipment. Contact the ARP office (865-1495) to schedule a training session. Allow approximately 1 hour to complete the training. Please do not allow staff, students or others who do not have key card access into the facilities. Notify the ARP office if unauthorized personnel request access or are present in the animal facilities or if facility doors are not working correctly. After regular work hours and on weekends and holidays, campus police should be contacted (863-1111 or 911 if emergency).

Personnel Protective Equipment and Employee Safety

Penn State's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee policy on Personal Protective Clothing for Work with Laboratory Animals requires all personnel wear appropriate protective clothing and equipment while working with laboratory animals. Dedicated outerwear (laboratory coat or disposable gown) and disposable gloves must be worn when animals or animal samples are handled. This attire should be donned upon entry into the animal room and removed before leaving the facility or entering another animal room. Disposable gowns and gloves are available for use in each animal facility. Some animal facilities and/or animal rooms have more restrictive entry requirements for either bio-safety or bio-security purposes. Entry requirements to these areas supersede the general requirements and are posted at relevant entry points. Personnel should always wash their hands after handling animals or animal samples.

Certain health risks are associated with working with animals. In addition to possible accidental injury, infectious diseases can be spread between humans and animals. As directed by governmental policies, personnel with significant animal contact must be included in an occupational health program. In cooperation with the PSU University Health Services, Animal Resource Program and Environmental Health and Safety Office, the Office for Research Protections has developed an occupational health and safety program for personnel working with animals. Principal investigators must ensure their employees and students involved with animal projects are enrolled in the program.

Anyone bitten or otherwise injured while working with an animal should report the incident to their supervisor and submit an accident report through PSU Human Resources. If medical attention is needed, PSU students should contact the University Health Services and employees the Department of Occupational Medicine. If a medical emergency exists, call 911 or go directly to the Mount Nittany Medical Center. Do not destroy the animal; in some cases it may need to be held for a period of observation.

Procedure Room Use 

Animal facilities include procedure rooms that investigators may use to conduct experimental or surgical procedures. Gas anesthesia equipment is available in many of these rooms along with disinfectant, biosafety cabinets, oxygen and carbon dioxide tanks, and sharps containers. Investigators must supply their own isoflurane anesthetic and other laboratory supplies. In addition, investigators are responsible for maintaining the room in clean and uncluttered condition and appropriate waste disposal, including biohazardous and chemical waste. The following guidelines apply to procedure room use.

Routine waste: Discard waste in the regular trash receptacle. Do not use biohazard bags to dispose of routine waste. Rodent blood is not a biohazard and may be discarded in the regular trash receptacle. If the trash can is full, remove and seal the bag. Place the bag in the corridor and ARP personnel will take it to the dumpster. A replacement bag should be present in the bottom of the trash container.

Biohazard Waste: If biohazard bags are used for any reason, they should be removed and taken to a biohazard collection site when vacating the room. Please do not leave biohazardous material in the room.

Glass Waste: Glass waste such as used pipettes should be placed in the glass disposal container.

Sharps: Sharps such as needles and scalpel blades must be placed in the designated sharps disposal containers located in the procedure rooms. If the sharps container is full contact the ARP office at 865-1495 to request a new container. Do not attempt to force sharps into full containers!

Animal Carcasses and Tissue: Place dead animals and discarded animal tissues in a plastic bag and place in the facility carcass freezer or refrigerator for disposal. Plastic bags are available in the procedure room.

Work Surfaces: Work surfaces in the procedure room should be cleaned and disinfected before leaving the room. A spray bottle of disinfectant is available for use in each procedure room.

Anesthetic Equipment and Hoods: Clean and thoroughly disinfect equipment that has had contact with animals. It is recommended that each investigator purchase their own modified Bain unit (anesthetic mask unit) to protect their animals from the potential spread of disease.

Empty, expired, or opened bottles of isoflurane anesthetic must be disposed of as chemical waste through EHS. Empty isoflurane bottles may also be disposed of according to EHS Chemical Container Disposal/Recycling Guidelines if rinsing within a fume hood.  

Floors: Sweep all debris from the floor and clean up spills and splashes. ARP personnel will mop the floor on a regular basis.

Use and Disposal of Biohazardous Agents in an Animal Facility

All personnel working in animal rooms and labs containing biohazardous agents must have the appropriate medical clearance and have completed all required EHS biohazard and biosafety training. In addition to the required EHS training, Animal Hazard Safety Training for working in the vivarium is also required. The initial training is below:

ARP Animal Hazard Safety Training - To assure that everyone handling hazardous agents are familiar with the Animal Hazard Safety Protocol (AHSP) and procedures.JPG

Employees and students are responsible for reviewing and complying with required personal protective equipment (PPE) and all Animal Hazard Safety Protocol (AHSP) instructions prior to entering a biohazard animal room or working with biohazardous material/animals. Lab members must update the biohazard door sign with the appropriate agent/chemical and status (in use or not in use) whenever conditions in the room change.

Important Safety Tips

No eating, drinking or applying cosmetics at any time when working with biohazards or in any animal room.

Cell phone use should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

No tobacco use in the animal facility.

Do not touch face (nose, eyes or mouth) while working with biohazards.

UV light is hazardous to your health. The UV light feature of the BSC should never be used when working in a BSC.


General Procedures When Working With Biohazards

Work with biohazards should be conducted in a Class II Biosafety Cabinet (BSC). Before starting work, disinfect the biosafety cabinet work surface and allow the blower to run for 5 minutes. Have all equipment properly staged to reduce excessive movement in and out of the BSC, however, do not store unneeded equipment in the BSC. Do not block the grates in the front or rear of the BSC as this will prevent proper air flow within the cabinet. Do not work in a BSC unless the front window sash is at the correct operating height. If the sash alarm is sounding, adjust the sash to the proper level to stop the alarm. When finished working, disinfect the BSC work surface and allow the blower to run for five minutes.

Containers for biohazard contaminated sharps must be kept within the BSC. When full, seal the container and spray the exterior with disinfectant before placing in a biohazard waste container. Do not reuse shoe covers or wear PPE outside of a biohazard room. All waste (including used PPE) generated in a biohazard room is considered hazardous and must be discarded in an appropriate biohazard waste container. Do not reach into a biohazard waste container - if the container is full please contact ARP staff. When exiting a biohazard room, remove PPE in the following order: outer gloves, shoe covers, gown, inner gloves, bonnet, mask, eye protection and wash hands.

The investigator must ensure that all cages containing animals contaminated with biohazardous agents/material are clearly labeled with a washable biohazard sticker (placed by ARP personnel) on the lower right hand corner and a laminated biohazard cage card (placed by lab personnel). The name of the biohazardous agent/chemical must be clearly indicated on the card! If viral vectors are used, the date of administration must be included on the cage card. Animal carcasses must be disposed with conventional animals and not placed in biohazard waste containers. Dirty cages and water bottles must remain in the animal room to be removed by ARP.  Do not break down caging or place on the floor.