Environmental Health & Safety

University of Colorado Boulder


Information on Physical Hazards, Bites, Scratches, and Sharps Injuries

This Environmental Health & Safety guideline documentation is intended for researchers and laboratory personnel.

Revised as of October 21, 2014

Physical Hazards

Animal researchers and care staff are exposed to physical hazards that are common in other bioresearch areas.  These include wet floors, particularly in instrument or cage processing areas and autoclave areas; steam from autoclave areas; high pressure devices, including autoclaves and high pressure washers; electricity, including high voltage devices; radioactivity; and chemical hazards, including anesthesia.  Training for the prevention of illness and/or injury from these physical hazards are provided through UCB’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S).

Bites and Scratches

All animals are capable of inflicting bites and scratches.  Small animals, such as laboratory rodents and rabbits usually deliver relatively minor, albeit painful, wounds.  Bite and scratch wounds can become infected by the animal’s or normal bacterial flora or by human skin bacterial flora.  Proper handling techniques, certain restraining devices, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) can help to prevent bites and scratches.  In the event of a percutaneous wound, wash the wound with plenty of soap and water and contact your supervisor. You may be recommended to seek medical care at a Workers’ Compensation provider.
Tetanus vaccinations are recommended minimally every 10 years.  If you sustain a percutaneous wound from an animal, your regular health care provider or workers’ compensation provider may recommend that you get a booster even if it has been less than 10 years.

Sharps injuries

Sharps injuries are defined as a penetrating puncture wound from a needle, scalpel, glass pipette, or other sharp object that may result in exposure to blood, bodily fluids or tissues.  Sharps injuries may expose an animal researcher or staff to either animal or human blood, tissues or bodily fluids. Human blood or bodily fluid exposures may occur in an animal research setting if the researcher or staff member is also working with human tissues, cultured cells, blood or bodily fluids.

Infectious sharps waste must be rendered non-infectious prior to disposal via the University’s Hazardous/Waste disposal program.  All bio-hazardous waste will be processed according to EH&S Segregation and Disposal of Metal Sharp Procedure.