Working with experimental animals

Allergies are the most common health problem that arise from working with experimental animals, but some people may also develop asthma or go into anaphylactic shock.

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Topic page about HSE | Pages labelled with experimental animals

Medical examinations and vaccines

Employees and students who work with animals that have fur (such as mice and rats) are at increased risk of developing allergies. The risk is further increased if the person has, or has had, other allergies. Allergies most often develop during the first 1-2 years after the individual has begun to work with animals.

Employees and students who are going to work with experimental animals or who will be in rooms where work with experimental animals is being conducted are required to undergo a medical examination before starting work. Contact Occupational Health Services. Fill out and bring the medical examination form and/or the vaccination form.

Preventing allergies

People typically develop allergies to proteins in animal urine, skin, saliva and fur. Working with soiled animal bedding is a main source for allergen exposure. Individuals may also develop allergies to medicine and other substances given to the animals.

The risk of developing health problems from working with experimental animals is significantly reduced by following established procedures and instructions for organizing your work, good hygiene, the use of work clothes, gloves and other personal protective equipment.

Animal bites

Animal bites can cause tissue damage, result in bleeding or bruises or even break bones. Animal bites often cause wounds and danger of infection. Wounds can get infected up to a week after the bite occurred. People are most commonly bitten on their hands. A bite wound should be treated in the following manner:

Clean the wound with a wound-cleansing agent or soap and water. Rinse well with salt water. In case of major tissue damage, you should contact your doctor for an examination of the affected tissue such as muscles, tendons and nerves. The doctor will also determine whether you need surgery.

If the person who has been bitten have not received a tetanus vaccine in the last five years, or is not fully vaccinated, a vaccine might be necessary. Preventive antibiotic treatment will not be recommended unless the injury is particularly severe.

Contact a doctor if you develop a fever, general malaise or local infection (redness, tenderness, swelling around the wound) during the first week after being bitten.

Animal bites should also be reported.


Work involving experimental animals is to be performed in separate buildings or in isolated areas (animal testing facilities). This is to keep the concentration of allergens outside the testing area to a minimum. Work involving dead experimental animals may be performed in other premises if a risk assessment results in an acceptable level of risk for spreading allergens. The risk assessment must be approved by supervisor/project leader, HSE coordinator and safety deputy. Work involving biopsies, organs etc. from dead experimental animals may be performed outside an experimental animals department. Work involving live experimental animals must be performed in an experimental animal department.

Risk assessments should be performed before a task or process, as well as if an activity has been changed. Risks must be removed or controlled, for example through specific procedures, training and use of personal protective equipment.

Any threats or other kinds of contact made by the public towards the experimental animal department or individuals associated with the department must be treated with respect. Write down the name of the person who makes the request, the reason for the request, as well as the time and date. Refer the case to the line manager. Threats are always reported to the police, this is the responsibility of the line manager. The Communiation Division can provide advice in difficult cases.

Clean zone/side and unclean zone/side

The clean zone/side is the internal, sealed area where the animals are located. The clean zone/side has higher hygiene requirements.

The unclean zone/side is the area outside the sealed area, i.e. other work facilities, changing rooms, offices and more.

Moving INTO internal zones with higher hygiene requirements

  • Remove all clothing (except underwear and socks) and shoes on the unclean side.
  • Use water/air shower if applicable.
  • Disinfect your hands.
  • Put on clean work clothes; t-shirt, trousers or overalls, hair net and shoes in the clean zone.
  • All equipment and materials (bags of fodder etc.) must be disinfected on the unclean side before being brought into the clean zone.
  • All cases and cages containing animals must be disinfected on the outside.

General working procedures

  • Take care to minimize dust formation. Move slowly when handling animals and working with bedding.
  • Work procedures that generate large amounts of dust must be performed in areas with access to a suction hose/fume hood. Remove larger quantities of hair, dust or soiled bedding with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a special purpose filter, or with a moist cloth.
  • Do not keep unnecessary items in the pockets of your work clothes. Avoid contaminating personal items.
  • Wash your hands after contact with animals. Use skin cream after washing your hands to avoid irritation eczema.
  • Bring as little paper or other materials out of the sealed area as possible. Results and the like should be entered electronically or scanned inside the department.

Washing and cleaning

  • Determine if it is necessary to change footwear between the clean and unclean zone.
  • Clean cages and equipment in the experimental animal area.
  • If you are cleaning cages outside the experimental animal area, encase the cages to keep allergens from spreading in the transport zone. Also remember to disinfect the transport case exterior.
  • Clean and sterilize surgical equipment etc. immediately after use.
  • Reorganize and clean your workplace and tools every time you finish a work process. Disinfect as required.
  • Waste must be handled according to legislation and NTNU regulations

Moving OUT OF internal zones with higher hygiene requirements

  • Transport cases for and with animals, as well as bags with used bedding, must be disinfected before being brought out of the sealed area.
  • Equipment and materials (including bags of fodder, etc.) that should be transported out of the experimental animal department must be disinfected or encased before being brought over to the unclean side.
  • Remove all work clothes and shoes in the clean zone.
  • Use water/air shower if applicable.
  • Disinfect your hands.
  • Put on your own clothes on the unclean side.

Reporting problems

You can report any problems, including animal bites, electronically via the problem reporting link.


NTNU regulations and other regulations




Approved by Director of HSE - August 11th 2015 - HMSRV1001E - ePhorte 2016/3901