Occupational Health Program

Program Aims

The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) is committed to providing a safe and productive working environment for all employees and volunteers. The university provides the following Occupational Health and Safety Program (OHSP) for all individuals working within UAF animal facilities who are involved in the direct care of vertebrate animals and their living quarters, and those individuals who have direct contact with animals (live or dead), their viable tissues, body fluids or wastes. Participation in this Occupational Health and Safety Program is based on contact time with live vertebrates and potential exposure to hazardous agents. This program is applicable to:

  • Full time, part time, and temporary personnel involved in animal care in UAF units that house animals for research and teaching.
  • Research investigators and their technical/research staff (includes post-docs, graduate students and some undergraduate students).
  • Instructors involved with animal related work.
  • Other UAF personnel who may reasonably be expected to come in contact with vertebrate animals (live or dead), their viable tissues, body fluids or wastes (some personnel in facilities management, security, custodial services).
  • Collaborators, contract service providers and others allowed unaccompanied/unsupervised access to UAF units that house animals for research and teaching.

Level of participation in the OHSP is based on risk assessment. Participants are organized into three risk categories reflecting the specific surveillance needs of the individuals based on the specific species of animals and/or biological, chemical, radiation and mechanical hazards they are potentially exposed to as part of their duties.
 

Professional Medical Care

Contract Provider

The UAF Occupational Health & Safety Program contracts out for all medical services (assessment, testing, preventative care, and treatment) to a local health care provider.  The current contract is to Alaska Occupational Health located at 1919 Lathrop St. #203, Fairbanks, AK 99701.

Obtaining Occupational Health Services

All non-emergency occupational health services related to animal care and use must be pre-approved by the Department of Enviromental Health, Safety & Risk Management (UAF-EHSRM@alaska.edu or x5413).
 

Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and OHSP Enrollment

The UAF Office of Research Integrity in conjunction with the UAF Department of Environmental Health & Safety and Risk Management, the University of Alaska Statewide Office of Risk Management, UAF Animal Resources Center and in consultation with the university’s contract health care provider has established a risk assessment matrix for categorizing personnel working within UAF units that house animals for research and teaching. The Risk categories are based on frequency and duration of contact with animals, intensity of exposure, hazards associated with the animals being handled, hazardous properties of agents used in research, the susceptibility of individual employees, the hazard-control measures available, and the occupational history of individual employees. All potential hazards intrinsic to or inherent in animal use have been identified and evaluated (i.e. animal bites, chemical cleaning agents, allergens, and zoonoses).

All UAF personnel (faculty, staff, students and volunteers) must enroll in the OHSP prior to beginning work with live vertebrates. Continuing access to animal facilities and authorization to work with live vertebrates is contingent upon your continued participation in the OHSP.  Participation in the OHSP follows a sequence of steps:

  1. Complete the Personnel Information Form and submit it through IRBNet.  Principal investigators may submit their PIF without supervisor approval, but all other personnel must have their supervisor, principal investigator, or advisor electronically sign off on their PIF before it is submitted.  Supervisors should be prepared to assist new personnel with completing the Occupational Health section and should specifically inform them whether or not they should complete the Controlled Substances section.
  2. The PIF is then reviewed by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) to assign the participating individual to one of three pre-defined risk categories. ORI will consult with Veterinary Services and Environmental Health Safety & Risk Management to determine any training requirements for lab & chemical safety, biohazards, radiation safety, field safety, driver training, and ergonomics.
  3. Both the participant and their supervisor will be notified by ORI of the risk level the participant has been assigned to and given any specific instructions regarding their continuing participation in the OHSP.
  4. If the assigned risk category requires a pre-assignment medical assessment the participant will be advised to submit a completed Medical Questionnaire (MQ) to the contract Health Care Provider. The MQ is a confidential medical document, and as such should be completed by the participant and sent directly to the Health Care Provider; it is maintained in the clinic's medical records and is not returned to the participant or the University.
  5. Following review of the PIF and MQ, the Health Care Provider may recommend risk specific preventive measures, immunizations, additional tests, and/or health monitoring.
  6. Once the assessment is complete, the results of the assessment are returned to the participant and his/her supervisor notifying them of the final determination and of any requirements. No personal medical information will be included in this notification.
  7. Once the participant has fulfilled the recommendations or provided justification for exclusion they may begin work with live vertebrates.
  8. The participant and their supervisor must ensure that the PIF is kept current with respect to any changes in job or task and any changes in animal contact or exposure to hazardous agents. Significant changes in activities may require a new risk assessment.
  9. Each participant is responsible for ensuring that they submit an updated MQ whenever there is a significant change in their health status.
  10. Participants are required to resubmit their PIF annually. IRBNet will send automated notices to you 60, 30 and 7 days prior to the expiration date.  Failure to resubmit by the deadline will result in loss of animal facility access privileges.


Personnel Training

All personnel working in UAF animal facilities receive an introduction to the occupational health and safety program as part of the required Facility Orientation. This includes an overview of the goals of the program, services available, the types of hazards present in the UAF animal facilities and their symptoms. In addition, participants receive information on good work practices, personal hygiene, engineering controls and use of appropriate personal protective equipment. Contact information for on campus resources for information concerning occupational health and safety are also provided.  Personnel working with live vertebrates outside of UAF animal facilities are provided with information appropriate to their activities on an as needed basis.

Personnel at risk are informed of the hazards involved, trained in implementing required safeguards, and provided with clearly defined procedures for conducting their duties during on the job training. This training may be delivered by the animal facilities staff, supervisor/principal investigator, other experienced research staff, or veterinary services staff. The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and/or Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management (EHS&RM) may provide additional guidance on specific hazards or situations.

Personnel are trained, as appropriate to the risk imposed by the work environment, in zoonoses, chemical safety, microbiologic and physical hazards (including those related to radiation and allergies), unusual conditions or agents, handling of waste materials, personal hygiene, and other considerations (i.e. precautions to be taken during pregnancy, illness, or decreased immunocompetence).

Formal training programs addressing animal care & use or occupational health & safety at UAF are multi-faceted and include:

  • CITI Training - "Working with the IACUC"
  • AALAS Learning Library - multiple training modules on occupational health and safety including but not limited to: Bloodborne Pathogen Training, Ergonomics for Animal Technicians, Laboratory Animal Allergy, biosafety and biosecurity. Zoonotic diseases are covered under biomethodology of different species.
  • Biosafety, PPE in the animal facility, zoonoses, animal disease surveillance training, and other specialty training can be arranged with the attending veterinarian.
  • Ergonomics Training (EHS&RM)
  • Laboratory Safety Training (EHS&RM)
  • Radiation Safety Training (Radiation Safety Officer:  Tracey Martinson)
  • Chemical Safety Training
  • Hazardous Waste Training (Department Chemical Hygiene Officer or EHS&RM)
  • Biological Safety Cabinet Training (ORI)
  • Biosafety Training: Use of genetically altered organisms, virus vectors, infectious agents, etc. in research and/or teaching. (Biosafety Officer: Tracey Martinson)
  • Driver Training (EHS&RM)
  • Field Safety Training: May include sessions on survival training - "learn-to-return", boat safety, bear safety, aircraft safety, etc. These are currently offered by the individual Departments or Institutes; contact your department/institute Safety Officer or business office for information and requirements.
  • Animal Facility orientation for new employees


Personal Hygiene

Clothing suitable for use in the animal facilities, laboratories or field are supplied and laundered by the supervisory unit (Institute, Department, Project). If the risk assessment for the individual's work requires additional protection, the supervisory unit also provides disposable gloves, masks, head covers, coats, coverall, and/or shoe covers. Protective gear for handling or working with wildlife is also provided (i.e. leather gloves, chain mail gloves, portable barriers, etc.) by the supervisory unit.

Personal hygiene is a component of the animal care, lab safety and field training programs. Included in these programs is the requirement for personnel to wash hands and change clothing as often as necessary to maintain personal hygiene. Outer garments worn in animal rooms or during handling of animals in outdoor facilities are not to be worn outside the animal facility. Personnel are only permitted to eat, drink, use tobacco products or apply cosmetics in designated areas.


Facilties, Procedures & Monitoring

The Institution requires a high standard of personal cleanliness in all its facilities; therefore, washing and showering facilities are available in all facilities. Cleanliness during field research is equally important although logistically more difficult; guidance/training is offered during field safety training.

All individuals working in animal facilities are encouraged to complete training in ergonomics. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) and job assignments have been designed to minimize, to the extent feasible, the possibility of injury due to poor ergonomics or repetitive motion. Safety and mechanical (i.e. cage washers) equipment within facilities is properly maintained and routinely checked.

Facility design and SOPs ensure housing of species so that potentially contaminated food and bedding, feces, and urine can be handled in a controlled manner. Facilities, equipment, and procedures are provided for appropriate bedding disposal. SOPs have been generated for waste disposal at each facility.
 

Animal Experimentation Involving Hazards

One or more of these UAF committees (in addition to the IACUC) reviews animal experimentation using hazardous agents: Radiation Safety and/or Biosafety. The IACUC meets on a monthly basis and the Radiation and Biosafety committees meet quarterly or, if needed, more frequently. The Lab and Chemical Safety Working Group in cooperation with the UAF Department of Environmental Health & Safety and Risk Management is charged with implementation of a consistent campus-wide chemical hygiene plan. The UAF Office of Research Integrity, which provides administrative support to the UAF research committees, facilitates this integrated approach to committee review. Review of these experiments addresses procedures for animal care and housing, storage and disbursement of the agents, dose preparation and administration, body-fluid and tissue handling, waste carcass disposal, and personal protection.

Written polices including details for protocol review for experimentation with hazardous biologic, chemical, and physical agents are prepared by the specific safety committees. The Occupational Health and Safety program (outlined above) identifies individuals at risk for exposure prior to assignment thus allowing for proper training. The campus radiation safety officer, the campus hazardous materials office and biosafety officer, and each unit's chemical safety personnel provide monitoring and ensure compliance with institutional safety policies.
 

Personal Protection

The supervising units provide personal protective equipment (lab coats, coveralls, scrub suits, boots, shoes, shoe covers, gloves, etc) to all personnel and ensure their proper cleaning, laundering, and disposal. When required, personnel shower and change garb when leaving certain areas. Protective clothing is not worn outside the boundaries of any hazardous-agent work area or the animal facility. Personnel working in high-noise areas are provided ear protection.

In addition to standard requirements for the Institution's animal facilities, the UAF Chemical Safety, Radiation Safety and Biosafety Committees specify protective gear (including but not limited to gloves, arm protectors, goggles, face shields, and masks), cleanliness, and containment (including proper disposal) requirements for each individual project involving specific hazardous substances.

Personnel working in areas where they may be exposed to contaminated airborne particulate material or vapors are provided with suitable respiratory protection and are trained and evaluated for its use.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is not engaged in work involving non-human primates.
 

Medical Evaluation and Preventative Medicine for Personnel

The UAF Occupational Health and Safety Program for personnel working with animals or animal tissues, fluids or waste includes medical evaluation and preventive medicine provided through the participation of a contract health care provider experienced in occupational health. Confidentiality and other medical and legal factors have been considered in the context of appropriate federal, state, and local regulations.

A pre-assignment and annual health history evaluation is required for personnel within certain risk categories. This includes establishing an appropriate immunization schedule for each employee. All animal care personnel are immunized against tetanus. Other immunizations are provided as recommended by the health care provider sometimes in consultation with UAF Veterinary Services (e.g. rabies, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, etc.).

Pre-employment or pre-exposure serum collection is not normally done but will be considered if recommended by the health care provider or the UAF Biosafety committee. All collection and archiving of serum from employees may be subject to approval by the UAF Institutional Review Board.

Zoonosis surveillance within the Institution's animal facilities is an integral component of the preventive medicine program. All captive animal colonies have regular assessments for known zoonotic diseases. All incoming wild animals are tested for pathogens endemic within their native populations (i.e Salmonella spp. in rodents; Echinococcus spp. in Arctic fox, etc.). Individuals working with free-ranging species are provided training to minimize exposure to zoonotic diseases present within the population(s) under study.  

Contacts and forms for reporting concerns or identification of potential or known exposures as well as suspected health hazards and illnesses is located on the UAF EHS&RM web page.

All injuries, accidents, bites, scratches, and allergic reactions are to be treated immediately. 
 

Incident Reporting

Once the immediate care needs have been provided, injured personnel must complete an Incident Report (and if medical care was necessary workers compensation paperwork for covered individuals) and submit it to their immediate supervisor. Incident reports and/or workers compensation forms should be filed at the unit/departmental office with all forms subsequently distributed in accordance with guidelines established by the Statewide Office of Risk Management and UAF EHS&RM offices.

References

General

Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. 2011. National Academy Press, Washington D.C. 2011.

Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. 1986. Reprinted March 1996. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington D.C. (Available from: Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD) 16pp.

Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals. Committee on Occupational Safety and Health in Research Animal Facilities, National Research Council. 1997. National Academy Press. Washington D.C. pp168.

Haz-Map: Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Agents. This is an NIH site with search information on occupational exposures to hazardous agents (including animal allergens and zoonotic diseases).

Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings, 2011.  National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians.

Asthma & Allergies

Preventing Asthma in Animal Handlers. January 1998. US Department of Health & Human Services (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health). Publication No. 97-116.

Preventing Latex Allergies. June 1997. US Department of Health & Human Services, National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health. Publication No. 97-135.

Zoonoses

Preventing Zoonotic Diseases in Immunocompromised Persons: The Role of Physicians and Veterinarians. Sara Grant and Christopher W. Olsen. Emerging Infectious Diseases. Vol. 5 No. 1. Jan-March 1999.

All About Hantaviruses Homepage. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Precautions for Workers in Affected Areas Who are Regularly Exposed to Rodents. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Human Rabies Prevention - United States, 1999. MMWR Reccommendations and Reports. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other Risks

Carcinogens

Report on Carcinogens The National Toxicology Program Homepage. The NTP, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is an interagency program headquartered at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Known Human Carcinogens

Reasonably Suspected Human Carcinogens

NIOSH Carcinogen List. US Department of Health & Human Services, National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health. This is a linked alphabetical list of substances NIOSH considers to be potential occupational carcinogens.

Hepatitis

Viral Hepatitis Website. With links to information on Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. US Department of Health & Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Infectious Diseases.

Other Bloodborne Pathogens

Enforcement Procedures for the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens. US Department of Labor, Occupational Health & Safety Administration. Directive CPL 02-02-069 - CPL 2-2.69 .

Exposure to Blood: What Healthcare Workers Need to Know. Department of Health & Human Services, Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Pamphlet.

How to Prevent Needlestick Injuries: Answers to Some Important Questions. US Department of Labor, Occupational Health & Safety Administration. Pamphlet.

Updated U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines for the Management of Occupational Exposures to HBV, HCV, and HIV and Recommendations for Postexposure Prophylaxis. Department of Health & Human Services, Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report. June 29, 2001. Vol. 50 No. RR-11.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

To Eliminate Tuberculosis in Alaska. State of Alaska, Department of Health & Social Services, Division of Public Health. July 2001.