Working safely with experimental animals encompasses not only the people and the animals, but also the facilities, equipment, and the procedures we use. It also encompasses the community in which we each live. We must each practice safe working habits to ensure that any health risks in our working environments never "leak" into the community because of faulty procedures or carelessness. The principal investigator must assume responsibility for ensuring that personnel working on the project are aware of any risks to health and safety. Policies and programs required under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety laws and regulations are implemented by the University of Windsor to support a safe working environment in animal holding and research facilities.
All persons using the facility should also be familiar with the requirements of relevant federal, provincial and municipal legislation. This would include, for example, the federal Health of Animals Act (38-39 Elizabeth II, Chapter 21, pgs. 387-421), which replaced the Animal Disease and Protection Act and which governs control of animal diseases and toxic substances. Those working with animals should also be cognizant of institutional and/or facility safety program. (see SA03 in Standard Operating Procedures)
As of November 30, 2011, all persons working within animal facilities must have successfully completed the Animal Committee modules 1-10 and one animal specific module as well.
The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), which resulted from federal and provincial co-operation, was instituted in 1988. The University of Windsor’s WHMIS program can be found at Office of Health & Safety.
Elsewhere, provincially enacted Health and Safety legislation specifies the accountability of owners and directors and the rights and responsibilities of employers, supervisors and workers in the workplace. The right to refuse unsafe work is a part of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act. WHMIS regulations are also a section of this legislation and require that each employer provide safe working conditions and that employees be informed about all hazards they will face in the course of their duties. Employees are also given the right to withdraw from the workplace if faced with an unsafe condition. All hazardous substances, including microorganisms, must be labeled in a specified manner, and a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) must be available to accompany each hazardous substance. All personnel working with animals must understand how to handle the species involved, both for their own safety and health, and for that of the animals.