A Master Plan, covering one year of the activity at an animal facility at a time, can be a useful aid to ensure that its functions are correctly carried out at designated intervals. It is particularly useful for operations which are not performed frequently, and which therefore tend to get forgotten. Examples of these are service and calibration of equipment, testing of backup systems and cleaning of storage areas. The frequency of many of these operations must be discussed with the suppliers of the equipment.

A Master Plan is designed to be a practical aid, to help staff maintain an overview of the tasks to be performed during the course of the year. Care should therefore be taken to ensure that it is perceived as such by all staff members. A pragmatic approach should be used to the intervals designated to each operation: if these intervals prove in practice to be too frequent (or infrequent), they should be adjusted immediately. Used in this manner, a Master Plan will be seen by staff members as a valuable tool which relieves them from a constant need to decide upon the week's activities.

Please also see Section 5 of the PREPARE guidelines.

In our experience, the most effective means of using a Master Plan is to create it on paper (see example below). It is then easy to display the Plan and discuss it around a table at a staff meeting. Commercially available sheets designed for planning staff vacation work well for this purpose. The items on the Plan are written in the left-hand column, and open circles are placed in the columns for the weeks where the procedure is to be performed. Staff enter their initials in the open circle when the operation has been completed. We recommend the use of staff initials rather a simple X in the circle, so that it is easy to see who has performed the tasks, in case there is a need to discuss the procedures with the last person who performed them. This also means that the Master Plan also functions well as a simple means of documentation for a large number of procedures. The open circles can be erased and moved laterally if the facility wishes to alter the frequency of events, as experience is gained in performing the tasks, or if too many tasks are scheduled for a particular week.

The content of a Master Plan and the frequency of the procedures on it must be tailor-made to the individual facility, after a risk analysis of its operations, infrastructure and location. Standard operating procedures (SOPs, see page 24) should be written for the procedures themselves. This will help in deciding how many procedures may practicably be performed in any one week.

Typical procedures for a Master Plan include the following activities (this list is neither exhaustive nor necessarily relevant for all facilities, and the frequency of each activity must be decided upon locally):

  1. Cleaning of animal rooms and corridors
  2. Cleaning of procedure rooms
  3. Cleaning of storage and waste disposal rooms
  4. Cleaning of personnel areas
  5. Service and calibration of equipment (e.g. weighing scales, washing machines, sterilisers, anaesthetic machines, imaging equipment and laboratory instruments)
  6. Maintenance of fridges, freezers and washing machines
  7. Maintenance of fire safety equipment
  8. Fire safety rounds and fire drill
  9. Assessment of utilities (water, electricity, computer networks and other services)
  10. Test of backup systems
  11. Test of alarm systems, security and emergency procedures
  12. Control of medicine, feed and equipment stores
  13. Control of animal emergency medication and equipment
  14. Health checks and vaccination of staff
  15. Control of first aid equipment and routines
  16. Education and training of staff, revision of CVs
  17. Membership of organisations and evaluation of the facility’s library
  18. Staff meetings and individual discussions
  19. Evaluation of the facility’s SOPs (see below)
  20. Evaluation of the facility’s waste disposal system
  21. Risk assessment of the facility
  22. Evaluation of the facility’s Health and Safety programme
  23. Evaluation of the facility’s internal control system
  24. Evaluation of the facility’s Contingency Plan
  25. Evaluation of the facility’s Master Plan

The development of a Master Plan, and standard operating procedures for the elements in the Plan, is part of the management of an animal facility, but novel animal experiments may necessitate the development of new elements in this system.

Composition of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
These should ideally contain the following items:

  1. Title and version number
  2. Date of issue (and, if necessary, shelf life)
  3. The author's name
  4. A short description of the purpose of the SOP
  5. The description of the procedure
  6. Details of any needs for maintenance of equipment which has to be used to carry out the SOP
  7. A description of where the original and copies of the SOP are located
  8. The signature of the author and countersignature of the person who has reviewed and approved the SOP

Further reading

A simple but effective Master Plan, made using Holiday Planner sheets from a local bookstore. Having the Plan on paper makes it easy to discuss around a table.
This page was updated on 05 July 2023

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