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 handle animals or animal tissue. 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 or animal tissues. The purpose and goal of the Occupational Health Program is 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 annual updates and periodic reviews are then performed to assess an individual’s changing risks. In many cases, an initial evaluation and risk assessment is all that is necessary. For some individuals, however, a clinical examination and vaccination(s) may be required as well.
As noted above, participation in the Occupational Health Program is mandatory for all staff, employees, students and volunteers who handle animals or animal tissues used in research at the university. An individual has successfully met this requirement when he/she is enrolled in the university’s Occupational Health Program (see below) and has received either:
- a risk assessment that indicates no medical evaluation is necessary; or
- a risk assessment that indicates a medical evaluation is necessary and he/she has received the evaluation and any required interventions such as immunizations.
Faculty, staff and students with research specific animal or animal tissue exposure are required to enroll in the Occupational Health Program by completing an initial online questionnaire.
Occupational Health Online Registry
To determine if you qualify see the “Enrollment” section below.
Individuals with animal or animal tissue exposure enroll in the Program by completing an initial occupational health registry questionnaire. Faculty and staff employees must complete the questionnaire on-line at https://rf.osu.edu/secure/ochre. All students (including student volunteers) who have research animal exposure must also be enrolled by completing the on-line questionnaire. Students whose exposure to animals is limited to classroom activities only, however, are not required to enroll. Veterinary students also have separate procedures as part of the preventive medicine program in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Members of the University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and IACUC support staff members who will perform facility inspections must also be enrolled. The responses are sent to the enrollee’s supervisor for validation. Once approved at this level, the responses are evaluated by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety to determine whether a medical evaluation is needed. If so, the information will be further reviewed by Employee Health Services (EHS) and/or Wilce Student Health Services (SHS) to determine if a medical examination is required. The enrollee will be notified of the examination requirement and must receive the examination in order to become compliant with the Program.
Faculty, staff, student and volunteer animal handlers are required to review and update as needed their occupational health registry information annually. Faculty, staff and student employees will receive an email notification and instructions when it is time to complete their annual review. Any changes in species used, in the number of hours of animal contact, in health events of the animal handler and in exposure to other chemical and biological agents should be included.
An animal handler will fulfill his/her annual occupational health requirements when he/she has received either:
- a notice indicating that the application has been reviewed and no changes were indicated.
- a risk assessment that indicates no medical examination continues to be necessary; or
- a risk assessment that indicates a medical evaluation is necessary and he/she has received the evaluation and any required interventions.
Clinical evaluations consist of a baseline medical evaluation and/or medical examination and provision of any required vaccinations. The Employee Health Services (EHS) 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. 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.
The minimum levels of Program participation beyond the initial and annual questionnaire are 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, fish, reptiles and arthropods are considered to have minimal risk. EHS or SHS will contact the individual with instructions for any needed clinical evaluation if other occupational exposures [e.g., chemical or biological agents] are identified on their occupational health registry questionnaire.
- 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 dogs, cats and large animals. EHS or SHS will contact the individual with instructions for any needed clinical evaluations.
- Category 3 – Individuals working in proximity to wildlife. EHS 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. EHS 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 health status or a change in their level of animal exposure, he/she should update their information by submitting a new annual update form. Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should immediately contact Environmental Health and Safety at [(614) 292-1284]. Personnel who work with animals and have chronic medical conditions are asked to disclose these conditions to Employee 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 mandatory 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, Employee Health Services (EHS) or Student Health Services (SHS) should be used. EHS is located at 1581 Dodd Drive, Suite 201, McCampbell Hall. Business hours are Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. The phone number is (614) 293-8146. SHS is located at 1875 Millikin Road and their phone number is (614) 292-4321. Business hours for SHS are generally Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
If EHS or SHS is closed or emergency treatment is necessary, visit the OSU 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 EHS or SHS, employees must schedule an appointment with EHS 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 EHS or SHS as soon as possible to retain her/his access to animal facilities and continued authorization to use animals in research.
- If an animal handler does not promptly seek evaluation, SHS or EHS will notify the animal handler, the Principal Investigator, and the Department Chair.
- Failure to complete the required Occupational Health Program registry and/or receive a required clinical evaluation at EHS or SHS will lead to suspension of an animal handler’s facility and animal access and/or revocation of IACUC protocol approval.
The IACUC has the responsibility to verify that individuals are enrolled in the Occupational Health Program before they are allowed to work with animals. Individuals will not be granted access to animal areas until they are enrolled in the Program. Whenever a new protocol or an annual protocol review is submitted, the list of all personnel working on the project will be reviewed by the Animal Division of the Office of Responsible Research Practices (ORRP) and compared with the occupational health registry database to ensure all individuals with exposure are enrolled or have reviewed their information within the past year. If individuals associated with a new protocol are not enrolled, the protocol will not be approved by the IACUC. If individuals associated with an ongoing protocol are not enrolled, they will be asked to cease work until enrolled. In the case of ongoing failure to enroll, the IACUC will consider suspending approval of a protocol.
Zoonotic Fact Sheets Available
When working with animals, it is important to be familiar with possible diseases that could be transferred between animals and humans. Fact sheets with information about specific agents for several agricultural species are available on the Office of Environmental Health and Safety website.