Research Highlights Importance Of Protective Equipment For Lab Workers

Study Examines Trends In More Than 700 Employees


New research has suggested that the use of personal protective equipment when working with laboratory animals could help to reduce instances of sensitisation, according to reports.

Occupational Health says that the report published in Occupational Medicine journal in December saw more than 700 laboratory animal workers surveyed regarding their jobs.

It found that workers with less than five years’ exposure to rat urine, who had used respiratory protective equipment, were less likely to suffer from sensitisation – a growing sensitivity to certain substances or materials.

The study – ‘Respiratory protection equipment reduces occurrence of sensitisation to laboratory animals’ – found that this was also irrespective of the level of exposure that the workers had to the laboratory animals.

Expert Opinion
While the widely held view is that it is difficult to say whether a variety of substances that people come into contact with at work may cause asthma, this provides direct evidence that by wearing respiratory protection the risks of sensitisation are reduced. This study justifies the importance of ensuring suitable respiratory protection is worn in the workplace.

"Laboratory animal allergy is an allergic hypersensitivity response which may develop as a result of exposure to animal allergens. Approximately 20 per cent of people who work with laboratory animals experience some allergic symptoms due to contact with, or inhalation of, animal allergens.

"The Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 require employers to prevent or, if this is not reasonably practicable, adequately control exposure of employees to hazardous substances, including animal allergens.

"This should be achieved by assessing the risk, providing suitable control measures, and monitoring to ensure that the control measures remain effective and are correctly used. Control measures may include safe working practices, room ventilation systems, local exhaust ventilation, personal protective equipment and respiratory protective equipment. Information, instruction and training should also be provided to those working in animal facilities.

"Asthma is a very serious health problem that can ruin lives and can be caused in a workplace simply by breathing in certain dusts, gases, fumes and vapours that can damage your lungs. Shortness of breath, wheezing and painful coughing are just some of the symptoms that occupational asthma sufferers may have to deal with every day. Many work-related diseases go undiagnosed, with no link being drawn between the disease and the sufferer's occupation."
Satinder Bains, Partner