When research involves exposure to and handling of animals, there are considerations that must be given to the potential allergens, zoonoses, and physical hazards, e.g. bites and scratches, that may be encountered by researchers and staff. Consensus guidelines recommend and the U.S. Public Health Service policy requires that proper training and medical surveillance be provided for those working with research animals. The Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) through which the University has received accreditation also looks favorably upon having an effective program for health and safety of animal workers. The Animal Worker Occupational Health and Safety Program provides web-based training, medical review and follow-up for health issues related to animal exposure.
Prior to beginning work with animals, all staff, faculty and students who have direct contact with animals are enrolled in the Occupational Health and Safety Program.
Enrollment in the Program is initiated by the worker completing the web-based training, Health and Safety for Animal Workers. Successful completion of the web training will be automatically recorded in the training data base. The training concludes by directing the worker to complete the necessary forms and medical review. The web training and medical review must be completed before the worker is provided access to the animal facility.
The medical review includes:
- Review of applicable medical history.
- Physical examination, if indicated, to include condition of skin
- Update of tetanus/diphtheria immunization, as needed.
- Discussion of risk factors associated with animal contact, including potential zoonotic agents, allergens, wound care, and potential hazards of field studies.
- Discussion of the health risk associated with compromised immune system (i.e. cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, steroid use, immunosuppressive drugs after organ transplant).
- TB screening (initially and annually) and proof of rubeola vaccine or confirmed immunity for primate workers
Personnel also receive instruction from Laboratory Animal Resources veterinary staff in biomethodology and safe handling techniques for those animals with which they will have contact.
Policies and guidelines for administering biological and chemical materials to animal models, prevention of laboratory animal allergies and zoonoses fact sheets can be found on the Animal Research Health and Safety pages.