Environmental Health & Safety

University of Colorado Boulder


Overview of Hazards Involved in Working with Animals

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

Revised as of October 21, 2014

Students must be given information regarding potential hazards and zoonoses involved in working with research animals.  They must be supervised at all times.  If a risk cannot be managed, students must NOT undertake the activity.  If a student is injured during an experiment, the Teaching Assistant (TA) must be notified immediately.

Prior to any animal contact, students are encouraged to seek medical advice with their own primary care provider or the Occupational Health Nurse (303-492-6074) if they have health concerns not addressed by the instructor, or have severe allergies, asthma, are pregnant, or immunocompromised.

Hazard Possible Harmful Effects Preventative Action & Initial Treatment Actions
Allergies Asthma, respiratory illness, rashes
  • Limit exposure time
  • Good personal hygiene (wash hands before & after lab)
  • Avoid touching face, nose, & eyes
  • Wear protective gloves, lab coats, & masks
  • If hives or difficulty breathing, notify your TA
Bites, Cuts, & Scratches Infection
  • Wear protective gloves & lab coats
  • Handle animals appropriately and according to how your TA has instructed
  • Wash wounds immediately
  • Seek First Aid immediately
  • Verify that Tetanus vaccination is current
Sharps Injuries (Needle stick or scalpel) Infection
  • Wear personal protective equipment
  • Use only safety sharps
  • If possible, direct sharps away from your body or hands
  • Do NOT attempt to recap needles
  • Dispose of used sharps into designated, marked sharps container
  • Wash wound immediately and seek First Aid
  • Verify your Tetanus vaccination is current
Chemical exposures Respiratory difficulties or skin irritation
  • Limit exposure times
  • Use chemicals in designated areas (fume hoods) if indicated
  • Follow experimental protocols as directed by TA
  • Do not eat or drink in the lab; keep hands away from face
  • Use proper Personal Protective Equipment, if indicated
  • Do not remove chemicals from the lab
  • Dispose of chemicals properly as directed by your TA
  • Rinse affected areas immediately & seek First Aid
  • Report any exposures immediately to your TA