Occupational Health and Safety

Program Objectives and Applicability

In order to provide a safe and productive working environment for all employees and volunteers, the university provides the following Occupational Health and Safety Program (OHSP) managed by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management (EHSRM). This program is required for all individuals working within UAF animal facilities who are involved in the direct care of vertebrate animals and their living quarters, and individuals having direct contact with animals (live or dead), their viable tissues, body fluids or wastes, including:

  • 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 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.

ORI in conjunction with EHSRM, 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 matrix for categorizing personnel working with live vertebrates. There are three categories based on frequency and duration of contact with animals, intensity of exposure, hazards associated with the animals to be handled, hazardous properties of agents used in the research, susceptibility of individual employees, hazard-control measures available, and 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. Submit your Personnel Information to ORI here. Supervisors should be prepared to assist new personnel with providing accurate information.
  2. EHSRM assigns the individual to one of the three risk categories, determines any training requirements for lab & chemical safety, field safety, driver training, etc., and notifies the individual.
  3. Depending on the risk category, the individual may need to submit a confidential Medical Questionnaire (MQ) directly to the contract health care provider. The MQ is maintained by the clinic and is never shared with the University, ORI or EHSRM. The contract health care provider may recommend risk specific preventive measures, immunizations, additional tests, and/or health monitoring.
  4. Once any required safety trainings are complete and recommendations from the contract health care provider have been completed (or the individual provides justification for exclusion from certain recommendations), the participant and their supervisor are notified that he/she may begin work with live vertebrates.

The participant is responsible for updating the Personnel Information on file with any changes in job or task or changes in animal contact or exposure to hazardous agents. Significant changes may require a new risk assessment. The participant is also responsible for submitting an updated MQ whenever they experience a significant change in health status. ORI will send reminders to participants to review their Personnel Information annually. Failure to update these forms will result in loss of animal facility access privileges.

The UAF OHSP 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. All occupational health services (other than emergency care) must be pre-approved by EHSRM (UAF-EHSRM@alaska.edu or 907-474-5413).

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.

When applicable, personnel are trained on 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 occupational health & safety at UAF are multi-faceted and include:

  • AALAS Learning Library - multiple training modules on occupational health and safety including but not limited to: Bloodborne Pathogens, 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 (EHSRM)
  • Laboratory Safety Training (EHSRM)
  • Radiation Safety Training (Radiation Safety Officer: Tracey Martinson)
  • Chemical Safety Training
  • Hazardous Waste Training (Department Chemical Hygiene Officer or EHSRM)
  • 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 (EHSRM)
  • Field Safety Training: can include "learn-to-return", boat safety, bear safety, aircraft safety, etc. (Currently offered by individual Departments or Institutes; contact your department/institute Safety Officer)
  • Animal Facility orientation for new employees

In addition to the IACUC, a project involving hazardous agents may also be reviewed by either the Institutional Biosafety Committee, the Radiation Safety Officer or Hazardous Material personnel. EHSRM also administers the implementation of a consistent campus-wide chemical hygiene plan. ORI provides administrative support to the UAF research compliance committees and facilitates an integrated review process. 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 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. 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.

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. All individuals working in animal facilities are encouraged to complete training in ergonomics. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) and job assignments are 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.

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.

**Please review this helpful pamphlet on Allergies, Asthma and Zoonoses.**

Supervisors or Principal Investigators must provide PPE equipment (lab coats, boots, shoe covers, gloves, ear protection, respiratory protective devices, etc.) appropriate to the duties and potential risks/exposures that staff and students may experience. This is true regardless of the type of work or location where it is performed and therefore applies to work involving live vertebrates in the lab, animal facilities or field. They are responsible for ensuring the proper maintenance, cleaning, laundering, and disposal applicable to the specific equipment. 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.

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 as needed. 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.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are a good source of safe handling and PPE guidelines for chemical use. The Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, 5th Edition, (BMBL) provides safety and health information for work with microbial agents (infectious and non-infectious). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website is an excellent source of information on animal allergies, asthma and common zoonotic diseases.

All injuries, accidents, bites, scratches, and allergic reactions are to be treated immediately. Once the immediate care needs have been provided, injured personnel must complete an Accident/Incident Report (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 EHSRM offices. 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 EHSRM web page.

The most important thing to remember regarding field safety is that all the same requirements and regulations that must be followed in labs and animal facilities must also be adhered to in the field! This includes proper handling, storage, labeling, shipping, and disposal of all materials and appropriate use of PPE.  Field work with animals has the same risks as work conducted in animal facilities, but those risks are compounded by risks associated with climate/weather, terrain, native plants, insects, wildlife and distance from help. Work with your unit safety officer and/or EHSRM to assess the risk factors associated with your specific location(s) and activities.

The UA Statewide Office of Risk Management has published two documents related to remote travel: the UA Remote Travel Safety Guide and the UA Remote Travel Planning & Resource Guide.  These documents provide excellent suggestions on how to prepare and pack for remote travel and address the most common health and safety risks encountered in travel to remote locations (i.e. for field work).  These guides do not address risks associated with handling live vertebrates, but provided a good foundation; for general information on potential hazards related to activities involving live vertebrates visit the Occupational Health section of the IACUC website or contact ORI with specific concerns or questions.

The distance of most field sites from medical services greatly increases the risks associated with any activity; minor injury or illness can become serious in a relatively short time if medical assistance is not readily available. Inclement weather can also negatively impact the arrival of medical help or the evacuation of sick or injured individuals. You should make sure that you always carry enough food, water, first aid supplies and medications for a couple of extra days in case of delays. Prior to heading into the field you should obtain a copy of these manuals and ensure that you take the appropriate training sessions. These might include one or more of the following (list is not all inclusive). Contact your department safety officer or EHS&RM for information on currently scheduled training courses:

  • Survival Training
  • Bear Safety Training
  • Firearms Safety Training
  • Aircraft and/or Boat Safety Training
  • Wilderness First Aid/CPR training
  • Driver Training (mandatory if you are driving a UAF vehicle!)

A good basic wilderness first aid text is Mountaineering First Aid: A Guide to Accident Response and First Aid Care (ISBN 0-89886-878-5) by Carline, Lentz and Macdonald and published by The Mountaineers' Books . This is one of the resources used in American Red Cross Wilderness First Aid courses. The book is currently in its fifth edition and is available in bookstores and on Amazon.com for about $13.00.  EHSRM provides free hard copies of another good safety guide, Emergency Survival a pocket guide by Christopher Van Tilburg, M.D.

Everyone working in remote locations needs to file a safety plan with a responsible person or office. This plan should include the location(s) you will be (as specific as possible) and your planned date/time of departure and return. You should also have a check-in schedule, if practical, for trips longer than a few days. If your research group or unit does not have a formal tracking process for field projects, file your itinerary with EHSRM and a reliable friend or family member. The person or office that you file your safety plan with is responsible for initiating search and rescue on your behalf, so don't forget to check-in when you return!


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.


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 Recommendations and Reports. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other Risks


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.


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.

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 Post-exposure Prophylaxis. Department of Health & Human Services, Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report. June 29, 2001. Vol. 50 No. RR-11.


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.