Office of Responsible Research Practices
The Ohio State University

Occupational Health Program


United States Department of Agriculture and Public Health Service regulations require The Ohio State University to have an effective program for the care and use of animals used in research. As part of that program, the regulations further require the University to have an effective occupational health and safety program for all individuals who may have exposures to animals. Participation in the University’s Occupational Health Program is thus mandatory for all faculty, staff, students and volunteers who work in University laboratory animal facilities or conduct research with animals. Part of this program is a risk assessment to identify, evaluate, manage, and reduce potential health risks associated with the care and use of animals at the institution. Medical surveillance is a critical component of effective occupational health programs and involves the evaluation of health risks associated with an individual’s exposure to animals and hazardous agents. The initial evaluation establishes a baseline of an individual’s health and potential exposure risks. Subsequent updates help assess an individual’s changing risks. In many cases, an initial risk assessment is all that is necessary. For some individuals, however, a clinical examination and vaccination(s) may be required as well.

Risk Assessment Participation

As noted above, a risk assessment as part of the Occupational Health Program is mandatory for all staff, employees, students and volunteers who have direct or indirect exposure to animals used in research. An individual has successfully met this requirement when he/she has submitted an assessment via the Online Risk Assessment Tool (ORAT).

Online Risk Assessment Tool (ORAT)

Students whose exposure to animals is limited to classroom activities only, however, are not required to complete the form. Members of the University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and IACUC support staff members who will perform facility inspections are also required to complete the risk assessment process.

Individuals may have additional occupational health requirements above and beyond the submission of an online risk assessment based on their job duties or academic enrollment.

A summary of the risk assessment is sent to the enrollee’s supervisor for verification. Depending on the information provided, the information is either reviewed by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety to determine if additional safety information is required or by University Health Services (UHS) and/or Student Health Services (SHS) to determine if a medical examination is required. The enrollee will be notified of the examination requirement.

Periodic Reviews

Faculty, staff, student and volunteer animal handlers are required to update their information when changes in potential exposure have occurred. Any changes in species used, in the number of hours of animal contact, exposure to chemical, biological or radioactive materials, or any other potential health hazard should be indicated.

Once the initial online risk assessment is submitted, individuals will receive, on an annual basis, an email reminder and instructions to review their information and update as needed.  This update helps to ensure that an individual is provided appropriate information regarding risks associated with their work.

Clinical Evaluations

Clinical evaluations consist of a baseline medical evaluation and/or medical examination and provision of any required vaccinations. The University Health Services (UHS) provides evaluations and other medical services for faculty, staff, and student employees on the Columbus campus. The Wilce Student Health Center (SHS) provides health evaluations for student animal handlers, including veterinary students, who are not University employees (including student volunteers) having animal exposure beyond the classroom. OSU has contracted with an outside provider to provide occupational health care services to University employees in Wooster and other outlying areas. Clinical evaluations are mandatory for animal care staff (University Laboratory Animal Resources), for those who work with primates, and for other individuals as described below.

Required follow-up is based on the species a person is exposed to and the duration of the exposure as follows:

  • Category 1 – Individuals working with rodents, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small non-wild caught animals for less than five hours a week, and those working with amphibians, , reptiles and arthropods are considered to have minimal risk. No additional follow-up is required.
  • Category 2 – Individuals working with rodents, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small non-wild caught animals for more than five hours a week; and those working with fish, dogs, cats and large animals. UHS or SHS will contact the individual with instructions for any needed clinical evaluations.
  • Category 3 – Individuals working in proximity to wildlife. UHS or SHS will contact the individual with instructions for needed clinical evaluations.
  • Category 4 – Individuals working with or in proximity to non-human primates or their tissues or fluids. UHS or SHS will contact the individual with instructions for needed clinical evaluations.

The types of medical monitoring and prophylactic treatments specified for each category are based on the risks associated with various categories of animal exposures. Additional occupational exposures to hazardous materials [e.g., carcinogens, highly toxic chemicals, infectious agents] may require additional medical surveillance requirements.

If at any time an individual experiences a change in their type and/or level of animal exposure, he/she should update their information by submitting a new form. Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant may update their risk assessment and request an evaluation/consultation with University Health Services or Student Health Services. Personnel who work with animals and have chronic medical conditions are asked to consult with University Health or Student Health Services. Such conditions can increase the risk or severity of animal exposure. These conditions will be evaluated as part of the health evaluation. Concerns and symptoms of inhaled and contact allergies to lab animals should be reported as soon as they are noted. Personnel reporting illnesses potentially related to their work with animals should immediately contact Employee Health Services and see a physician.

Injury or Illness

Individuals who experience an injury or illness related to working with animals, must report the event to their supervisor or Principal Investigator (PI) and must complete an Employee Accident Report (EAR) form. If medical treatment is needed, University Health Services (UHS) or Student Health Services (SHS) should be used. UHS is located at 1581 Dodd Drive, Suite 201, McCampbell Hall. Business hours are Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The phone number is (614) 293-8146. The Wilce Student Health Center is located at 1875 Millikin Road and their phone number is (614) 292-4321.  Business hours for SHS are generally Monday – Friday 8 am – 5 pm.

If UHS or SHS is closed or emergency treatment is necessary, visit the Wexner Medical Center Emergency Department or a local emergency department if you are not in the Columbus, Ohio area. Regional campus employees are instructed to go to the nearest Emergency Department for treatment. In the event that treatment is provided somewhere other than UHS or SHS, employees must schedule an appointment with UHS and non-employee students should schedule an appointment with SHS for an evaluation before returning to work or the lab. All individuals must return the completed EAR to their supervisor or PI.

Faculty, Staff, Student and Volunteer Responsibilities

  • When notified that a clinical evaluation is required, a faculty, staff, student or volunteer animal handler must be seen by UHS or SHS as soon as possible.  I
  • Failure to complete the required risk assessment form prior to working with animals may lead to suspension of an animal handler’s facility and animal access and/or removal from an IACUC protocol.

Institutional/IACUC Responsibilities

The IACUC has the responsibility to verify that a risk assessment has been completed before an individual is allowed to work with animals. Individuals will not be granted access to animal areas until they have completed the risk assessment.  Individuals will not be able to be added to an approved  IACUC protocol until they are enrolled in the program. Any proposed protocol will not be submitted for committee review until all  individuals associated with the protocol are enrolled.  Periodic audits will be conducted comparing information provided in the risk assessment form and activities of an individual.