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Ensuring Safe Practices

All persons working within animal facilities must have successfully completed the Animal Care Committee modules 1-10 and one animal specific module as well. These can be found and completed in our Training Modules section.

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 the 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.

Biohazards as Part of Research Programs

When experiments are planned that will involve biohazardous agents, both the institutional occupational health and safety office, and Health Canada, Office of Laboratory Security Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines must be consulted. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available for the individual organisms in the risk groups.

Biosafety Guidelines and Levels of Containment

Biohazards are rated at four levels with a risk group associated with each level. Containment levels refer to the physical requirements and risk groups refer to the pathogenicity of the organisms.

Biosafety Level 1 is required to manage the lowest risk and Biosafety Level 4 is required to manage the highest risk to human or animal health.  The attitudes and actions of those who work in the laboratory determine their own safety, and that of their colleagues and of the community. Laboratory equipment and design can contribute to safety only if they are used properly by people who are genuinely concerned and knowledgeable about safety issues. Since the University of Windsor is not physically equipped to conduct research requiring Level 3 or Level 4 containment, we will address only requirements for Levels 1 and 2.

Biosafety Level 1

Risk Group 1 infectious agents are biological agents that are unlikely to cause disease in healthy workers or animals (low individual and community risk).  Facilities required to contain risk group 1 organisms - Containment Level 1: No special facilities, equipment or procedures are required. Standard well-designed experimental animal and laboratory facilities and basic safe laboratory practices suffice. Hand-washing facilities must be provided.  Disinfectants must be properly used.

Biosafety Level 2

Risk Group 2 infectious agents are pathogens that can cause human or animal disease but, under normal circumstances, are unlikely to be a serious hazard to laboratory workers, the community, livestock, or the environment (moderate individual risk, limited community risk). Laboratory exposures rarely cause infection leading to serious disease; effective treatment and preventive measures are available and the risk of spread is limited.  Facilities, equipment, and procedures required to contain risk group 2 organisms at Level 2 include a laboratory separated from other activities, biohazard sign, room surfaces impervious and readily cleanable. Equipment should include an autoclave, certified HEPA filtered class I or II biological safety cabinet for organism manipulations, and personal protective equipment to include laboratory coats worn only in the laboratory, gloves worn when handling infected animals. All contaminated material to be properly decontaminated.

Chemical Safety

Experimental animal facilities routinely contain various chemicals such as detergents, disinfectants, anesthetics, tissue preservatives (e.g., formalin). Most staff will be familiar with safe work practices for use of these chemicals. A laboratory animal facility should be following the Canadian Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), which consists of labeling chemicals, provision of material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and employee education programs. A detailed discussion of all the chemicals used in experimental animal facilities, their hazards and safe use is beyond the scope of this module.

Narcotics and other controlled drugs and substances must be handled, stored and used according to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and its regulations.  It is essential to keep these substances secure since some are sought by those considering suicide and many are highly sought as street drugs.  The Chemical Control Centre is licensed to purchase and use these substances and is responsible and liable for their use.  The University Veterinarian will ensure and working with the Animal Care Committee that veterinary drugs are appropriately used to minimize pain and distress and protect animal health and welfare.

Radiation Safety

Radioactive materials present special hazards. All persons working with these materials should know the properties of each, and be familiar with the appropriate safe handling techniques. The possession of radioactive materials is authorized by Radioisotope Licenses issued by the (federal) Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) to the institutions. The Radiation Safety Program is administered by the Radiation Safety Officer, who the AECB recommends sit as an ex-officio member of the institution's Occupational Health and Safety Committee.  Radiation information including the radiation manual and training can be found at the Office of Research Safety.  Use of X-rays is governed by Occupational Health and Safety Acts under provincial Ministries of Labour.

Isotope-treated animals may pass radioactive material in their excrement, which should, therefore, be disposed of in an approved manner, as must the animal itself after death. Complete records should be kept through to the final disposition of these animals.  The University of Windsor has a radiation safety program in place to ensure work with ionizing radiation, including isotopes is done safely.  Training and licensing of users and facilities are mandated.

Contact the Animal Care Committee

If you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Animal Care Committee
Chrysler Hall North
Room 2138
519-253-3000 ext. 3741