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Name: Occupational Health and Safety Screening for Animal Handlers
Responsible Office: Environmental Health & Safety

Applies to: (examples; Faculty,Staff, Students, etc)

Faculty , Staff , Students , Contractors_Vendors

Policy Overview:

Issued: 02-01-2018
Next Review Date: 08-02-2022
Frequency of Reviews: Annually
UHSP is committed to providing a safe working environment for all personnel, including individuals who have contact with animals in research. University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis (UHSP) maintains an occupational health program for employees coming into contact with animals intended for use in research that includes education, use of appropriate personal protective equipment and screening for risk and additional precautions or restrictions on animal use by an employee.


Term Definition
Animal In the context of this policy the term applies to live animals, unpreserved tissues or body fluids, animal cages or animal carcasses. The term does not apply to preserved animals.
Individual Faculty, staff, student or other person working with or coming in contact with animals covered under this policy
Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) The IACUC is a federally mandated committee, qualified through the experience and expertise of its members that oversees an institution's animal program, facilities, and procedures.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Appropriate job specific equipment designed to protect an individual from work risk. Examples of PPE include, but are not limited to, hard hats, plain and prescription safety glasses, goggles, welding helmets, shields, safety shoes, laboratory coats, aprons, gloves, protective clothing, ear muffs or plugs, and respirators.
Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs) are review boards appointed by an institution to evaluate and approve potentially biohazardous lines of research. Their function is to provide local institutional oversight and approval of nearly all forms of NIH-sponsored research utilizing recombinant DNA (rDNA) in order to ensure that such research is in compliance with the Guidelines..
Radiation Safety Committee (RSC) A committee responsible for monitoring and maintaining a safe radiation environment in institutions where radiation is produced and/or used.


University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis (UHSP) is committed to providing a safe working environment for all personnel, including individuals who have contact with animals. This would include employees, students and visitors who handle live animals, unpreserved tissues or body fluids, animal cages or animal carcasses. This handling typically occurs in research areas where animals are used.

Risk of Exposure to Animals

  1. Allergic Reaction

    Animal or animal products such as dander, hair, scaled fur, saliva and body wastes contain powerful allergens that can cause both respiratory and skin disorders. Allergies and the development of allergies are perhaps the most common hazard associated with working with and around laboratory animals. It is estimated that as many as 40% to 70% may experience allergic reactions of some type when working with laboratory animals. Up to 20% of allergic animal users may develop occupational asthma, which can limit the ability to work and may lead to permanent disability.

    Inhalation is one of the most common ways for allergens to enter the body. After a period of time (often several months, but occasionally years), workers may inhale sufficient quantities of allergens to become sensitized, thus they develop symptoms when exposed again, even to tiny amounts of the allergen.

    Individuals with a history of allergic reactions are much more likely to develop laboratory animal allergies and the incidence increases with increasing exposure. The purpose of the medical surveillance program and questionnaire is to identify program participants with conditions that could place them at increased risk.

    Types of allergic reactions to animals can include:

    • Hives: Called contact urticaria, these are raised, clearly demarcated red lesions
    • Allergic conjunctivitis: The conjunctiva of the eyes is red, itchy, and the eyes may water.
    • Nasal congestion: Called rhinitis, this is experienced by sneezing, an itchy nose, and clear nasal discharge.
    • Asthma: Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
    • Anaphylaxis: This is an extreme and sometimes life-threatening reaction which can include hives, generalized itching, throat tightness, eye or lip swelling, and difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  2. Injuries

    There is risk that those handling animals may be bitten, scratched or sustain some other minor injury from the animals being handled.

  3. Infection

    Infectious disease can also be spread between animals and people. Methods of infection could include direct contact, indirect contact (such as areas where animals live and roam, or objects or surfaces that have been contaminated with germs), or vector born (being bitten by a tick, or an insect like a mosquito or a flea).

  4. Other risks

    Immunocompromised Individuals

    Immunocompromised individuals may be at increased risk for development of infectious diseases as a result of research activities, including working directly with potential pathogens as well as caring for infected animals and their environment.

    There are many medical conditions that may cause the immune system to be compromised. These conditions may mean that the individual’s immune system does not work as well as it does in healthy individuals. Some examples include:

    • Infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
    • Prolonged use of corticosteroid (cortisone) medications by mouth or by injection. These drugs are given for a variety of diseases including asthma, allergies and autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Monoclonal antibody therapy
    • Medications used by people who have received organ transplants
    • Long term diabetes mellitus, kidney or liver disease
    • Blood diseases (diseases that affect the bone marrow or white blood cells, for example leukemia or lymphoma)
    • Certain forms of cancer, leukemia and lymphoma
    • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
    • Chronic under nutrition (malnutrition)
    • Spleen removal
    • Pregnancy will cause some degree of immunosuppression
      Individuals who are pregnant or attempting to conceive may need to take special precautions when working with animals, or in research laboratories since there are certain hazards and pathogens that may pose a health threat to the fetus. Individuals should contact the contracted occupational health provider for an evaluation of their circumstances.

Occupational health and safety program
The University maintains an occupational health and safety program to mitigate the risks associated with individuals who work with animals. This program works in combination with other institutional policies such as Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan (ECP), Globally Harmonized System (GHS), Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) and Hazard Communication, and includes the following components:

  1. Education — All individuals working with animals are required to undergo training regarding the risks and appropriate safety measures related to proper techniques for animal handling, risk of injury, infection, allergies, preventive control measures, and reporting mechanisms prior to being given access to animals or the room/facility that contains the animals.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) — All individuals working with animals are required to 1) undergo instruction regarding the approved personal protective equipment for the use of the animals they will come in contact with, 2) use appropriate PPE.
  3. Health evaluation — All individuals working with animals are required to undergo a pre-employment health evaluation and/or health history evaluation specific to the animals they will work with to assess potentially risks for individual program participants. This evaluation will be ongoing and re-evaluated annually or as health situations change that may affect risk. The evaluation will be reviewed by a physician with occupational health hazard background.
  4. Non-Human Primates — There are additional program components for program participants working with non-human primates. Although there is currently no non-human primate work conducted on UHSP campus, if individuals are approved to work with non-human primates at WU they will be required to receive the following:
    • Annual Tuberculosis (TB) screening for anyone without a prior history of a reactive test. Those who test positive for TB will be evaluated annually to determine if they may work with nonhuman primates.
    • Written official documentation of Measles, Rubella immunity (titers.) Program participants who are non-immune will be offered the vaccine; those who choose not to receive the vaccine may not be allowed to work with nonhuman primates.
    • A serum sample taken at the time of the initial physical examination, and every five years thereafter, to be stored and used as a baseline sample. Additional samples may be taken after a bite or scratch injury or at the discretion of Human Resources when an illness that may be animal-related is suspected.
    • All individuals working with macaques should schedule an appointment with Human Resources to discuss the exposure protocol.

Mitigating Risk

Animal related allergies can often be managed by a combination of medical management and work place strategies. Wearing masks, gloves, hair bonnets, shoe covers, laboratory coats, safety glasses, performing animal manipulations within biological hoods, and showering after the workday all help decrease exposure and allergic reactions.


All injuries (animal’s bites, including rodent bites) or allergic symptoms from an exposure to animals at work should be reported on a STLCOP injury report as soon as possible. Complete the report here. All injuries/incidents related to work with animals will be reported to the IACUC administrator within 48 hours. If biohazardous materials or chemicals are involved in the incident, then the incident would be reported to the IBC administrator within 48 hours. If the incident involved radioactive materials then the Radiation Safety administrator would notified in a timely manner.

For non-emergent, routine treatment on regular workdays, Monday-Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., call Human Resources at (314) 446-8132 to report the incident; after hours or on weekends, call Public Safety at (314) 446-SAFE to report the incident. A UHSP official will authorize treatment.

In the case of severe symptoms with difficulty breathing, call (314) 446-SAFE, for transport to the emergency room by UHSP Public Safety. Those reporting significant animal allergy symptoms will be contacted by Human Resources for further evaluation.


Identification of animal exposure and participation in the program

The Vice President, Operations is responsible for physical access control to animal facilities as well as management of waste removal, general cleaning, etc. In addition, certain trained program participants may be designated by the Vice President, Operations as authorized to access animal facilities for these non-research purposes.  In general, the Vice President, Operations has designated the Coordinator, Emergency Management to assist in procedures.

The Primary Investigator (PI) is responsible for notifying Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) with a list of individuals who will be exposed to animals. Currently, University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis partners with the Washington University in St. Louis IACUC.

Individuals exposed will be listed as participants in the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis  Occupational Health & Safety Program for Animal Handlers. UHSP Human Resources and the Vice President, Operations will maintain a list of individuals who are participants in this program.

Participant requirements

  1. Education

    All participants are required to complete the required occupational health module for information for training on risks associated with animal exposure.

    1. Training access is managed by Washington University through an online training program.
    2. Washington University will certify to Vice President, Operations (or designee) and/or Human Resources when individuals have completed the required training. Human Resources will rely on Washington University’s records.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

    The primary investigator is required to train the individual regarding personal protective equipment for use with the animals the individual will come into contact with. It is the individual’s responsibility to follow appropriate use of PPE.

    1. The Vice President, Operations (or designee) will be notified by Washington University that the required general training has taken place. The general training has general PPE requirements listed
    2. The Vice President, Operations (or designee) will be notified by the PI when individuals have completed the specific required PPE instruction.
    3. If specialized PPE, such as a tight fitting respirator, is required then the training on use and care will be given during issuance after medical clearance has been granted. Retraining will be conducted annually or if there is a change in job duties that require a change in assigned PPE.
  3. Health evaluation

    New Participants

    Individuals participating in the animal handling program must complete a UHSP Occupational Health & Safety Screening for Animal Handlers Health Form. The form should be submitted to Human Resources at UHSP and reviewed by a health professional prior to being granted access to the animal facility.

    Human Resources, or designee, such as the Vice President, Operations, shall authorize medical evaluation of the completed form at an approved vendor such as:

    BarnesCare Midtown
    5000 Manchester Ave
    St Louis, MO 63110
    Phone:(314) 747-5800
    Fax:(314) 747-5866
    7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday
    Concentra - Midtown
    6542 Manchester Ave
    St. Louis, MO 63139
    Phone:(314) 647-0081

    8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday

    Ongoing Participants or Participants with Health Changes

    A subsequent evaluation form will be completed for all individuals in the program on at least an annual basis to ensure that health situations haven’t changed. Should a change be noted, this information will be re-evaluated by the contracted health professional.

    In addition, should an individual become aware of a health change such as pregnancy or becoming immunocompromised it is the individual’s responsibility to complete a new form immediately and submit it to Human Resources. This form will be re-evaluated by the contracted health professional. If an individual has a change in work place conditions, such as working with a different species, then it is the individual’s responsibility to complete a new form immediately and submit it to Human Resources.

Results of the Health Evaluation

The health evaluation will be reviewed by a physician with occupational health hazard background and reported to Human Resources. Upon receipt of the assessment report from the physician at the facility, Human Resources will review the report and share results with the individual if specific health hazards are identified. The individual may follow up with the provider to discuss specific medical management or work place strategies required to work with animals.

It is possible that based on that evaluation an individual may not to be able to mitigate risk sufficiently to work with animals. If that is the case, once the individual has been notified,

  • The PI will be notified that the individual can no longer have access to animals
  • The IACUC will be informed
  • The Vice President, Operations (or designee) will be informed and access to the animal facility cancelled.
  • The University will make a reasonable attempt to transfer the employee to another position for which there is a vacancy and the individual is qualified, but this cannot be guaranteed.

Human Resources will track the results of the health evaluation in HR Information Systems and in the Occupational Health Record of the employee.

Results Report

Once an individual has successfully completed all steps of the program Human Resources will notify the Vice President, Operations (or designee).

  • Human Resources and the Vice President, Operations (or designee) will maintain a list for verification by WashU IACUC.
  • Only individuals on the list will be granted access to animal facilities.
  • The Vice President, Operations (or designee) will share results of participant completion with PI.

Animal Facility Access

The Emergency Management Coordinator will coordinate physical access controls to the animal facility based on completion of the program. Completion of general laboratory safety training, personal protective equipment, bloodborne pathogens training and globally harmonized system training is also required before access can be granted to the animal facility.


All information obtained through the health evaluation process will be kept confidential by Human Resources. However, information may be shared with appropriate UHSP leaders and key WU program administrators, as determined by the Director of Human Resources, with a legitimate business need to know.


From time to time researchers may want to grant access to students, faculty or other researchers for short periods of time to animal facilities. These short-term visitors need not complete a health evaluation if they participate in a similar program at their home institution and sign a waiver. A waiver must be completed by the visitor, Primary investigator (PI) and maintained on file with the Vice President, Operations. The waiver form should be completed prior to entry to the animal facility. See the attached UHSP Animal Facility Visitor Release Form.


Position/Office/Department Responsibility
Director, Human Resources
  • Track completed UHSP Occupational Health & Safety Screening for Animal Handlers Health Form.
  • Coordinate with medical provider for evaluation
  • Follow up as necessary with individual and PI and Vice President, Operations based on evaluation.
  • Record screening results in HR Information Systems, store in occupational health file for individual.
  • Maintain list of individuals who have completed program.
  • Notification of injuries/incidents to appropriate program administrator (IACUC, IBC and Radiation Safety Committee)
Vice President, Operations
  • Receive requests for individuals to access the animal facility.
  • Maintain list of individuals who have completed program.
  • Manage physical access controls to animal facility for individuals based on program participation/completion of requirements/changes in status.
  • Notification of injuries/incidents to appropriate program administrator (IACUC, IBC and Radiation Safety Committee)
Primary Investigator (PI)
  • Notifying IACUC of individuals needing access to animal facility.
  • Notify Vice President, Operations (or designee) that PPE lab instructions and requirements have been met by the individual.
  • Notify Vice President, Operations (or designee) if access needs change.
  • Completing UHSP Animal Facility Visitor Release Form and sending it to Vice President, Operations for short-term visitors.
Individuals with access to animal facilities
  • Complete UHSP Occupational Health & Safety Screening for Animal Handlers Health Form.
  • Complete annual update of prior form; notify Human Resources of changes in health or work place conditions.
  • Report injuries or allergies with appropriate form

Policy Contacts:

Name Contact Information
Daniel Bauer 314-446-8308,
Eric Knoll 314-446-8375,