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Preventing Asthma in Animal Handlers (NIOSH 1998)78

Preventing Asthma in Animal Handlers (NIOSH 1998)78

Animal handlers should:

Perform animal manipulations within ventilated hoods or safety cabinets when possible. Avoid wearing street clothes while working with animals.

Leave work clothes at the workplace to avoid potential exposure problems for family members. Keep cages and animal areas clean.

Reduce skin contact with animal products, such as dander, serum, and urine, by using gloves, lab coats, and approved particulate respirators with face shields.

Employers of animal handlers should:

Modify ventilation and filtration systems: Increase the ventilation rate and humidity in the animal-housing areas. Ventilate animal-housing and -handling areas separately from the rest of the facility. Direct airflow away from workers and toward the backs of the animal cages. Install ventilated animal cage racks or filter-top animal cages. Decrease animal density (number of animals per cubic meter of room volume). Keep cages and animal areas clean.

Use absorbent pads for bedding. If these are not available, use corncob bedding instead of sawdust bedding. Use an animal species or sex that is known to be less allergenic than others.

Provide protective equipment for animal handlers: gloves, lab coats, and approved particulate respirators with face shields.

Provide training to educate workers about animal allergies and steps for risk reduction. Provide health monitoring and appropriate counseling and medical follow-up for workers who have become sensitized or have developed allergy symptoms.

Principal Elements of an Occupational Health and Safety Program:6

Administrative procedures Facility design and operations Exposure/control methods Education and training Occupational health services Equipment performance testing Information management networks Emergency procedures Program evaluation and audit

A simple hierarchy for risk management can be applied. Controls based on engineering solutions are preferable to those based on procedures or people, because they are less reliant on human factors. An effective strategy will be based on all three.6 It should take account of controls during normal operations, controls for operations when conditions are not normal (e.g., spillage or breakdown), and controls for exposures that may occur beyond the controlled areas (fugitive exposures).6

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