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DRAFT: University of Alaska Anchorage Policy on the Occupational Health and Safety of Personnel Working in Animal Facilities or with Frequent Contact with Animals

The University of Alaska Anchorage 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 UAA 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:

Level of participation in the OHSP is based on risk assessment. Participants are organized into risk categories that reflect the specific surveillance needs of the individuals based on real or potential occupational exposure to specific species of animals. Key components (italics) for administration and lines of authority for the UAA Occupational Health and Safety Program for Personnel working with animals are:

 

* The University of Alaska Statewide Office of Risk Management works with the UAF components to assist with overall coordination and funding of the program.

 

Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment:

UAA Environmental Health & Safety and Risk Management Support, the University of Alaska Statewide Office of Risk Management and UAA IACUC Veterinary Services with consultation from the Institution's contract health provider has established a risk assessment matrix for categorizing personnel working with animals. 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).

Participation in the program follows a sequence of steps:

  1. Obtain the UAA OHSP Hazard Evaluation form from the web site. This is an MS Word document that must be completed on your computer, printed out, and signed.
  2. The UAA OHSP Hazard Evaluation form is completed by the participating individual and their supervisor. Supervisors and principle investigators may complete this form on their own. The Hazard Evaluation form is then submitted to the UAA IACUC Chair and UAA EH&S.
  3. UAA Veterinary Services and UAA EH&S reviews the form to assign the participating individual to one of three pre-defined risk categories. Veterinary Services specifies educational requirements in animal care. EH&S determines the required training in lab safety, biohazards, field safety, driver training, and ergonomics.
  4. If the assigned risk category requires a pre-assignment medical assessment the participant will be notified by UAA EH&S and advised to complete a medical questionnaire for review by the contract Health Care Provider. This questionnaire is a confidential document completed by the participant and seen only by the Health Care Provider. This questionnaire is maintained in the medical record and not returned to the participant or the University.
  5. The participant will be notified if a medical examination will be required. If a medical examination is required, the participant needs to complete an OSHA Required Medical Examination form and submit it to UAA EH&S for approval. The approved Medical Examination form will be returned to the participant along with instructions concerning how to obtain the free medical examination.
  6. If the assigned risk category requires review by the Health Care Provider they may recommend risk specific preventive measures, immunization recommendations, and/or health monitoring.
  7. Once the assessment is complete, the Hazard Evaluation form is returned to the participating individual and his/her supervisor notifying them of the final determination and of any requirements.
  8. Once the participant has fulfilled the recommendations or provided justification for exclusion they may conduct the work specified in the form.
  9. The participant and their supervisor must ensure that the Hazard Evaluation 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 require a new risk assessment.
  10. The IACUC Chair with notify all participants in this program when it is time for their annual renewal.

 

Personnel Training

Personnel at risk are provided with clearly defined procedures for conducting their duties, are informed of the hazards involved, and are trained in implementing required safeguards.

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 and use at UAA are multi-faceted and include:

 

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.).

Personal hygiene is a component of the animal care, lab safety and field training programs. Included in this 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.

 

Facilities, Procedures, and 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 required to complete training in ergonomics. Safety equipment within facilities is properly maintained and routinely checked.

Facility design and operating procedures 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. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have been generated for waste disposal at each facility.

 

Animal Experimentation Involving Hazards

One or more of these UAA committees (in addition to the IACUC) reviews animal experimentation using hazardous agents: Radiation Safety Biosafety. The IACUC meets semi-annually and the Radiation and Biosafety committees meet quarterly or, if needed, more frequently. The Chemical Safety committee ensures a consistent campus-wide chemical hygiene plan. The UAA Vice Provost for Research Office 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 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 the 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.

In addition to standard requirements for the Institution's animal facilities, the UAA 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 biohazardous substances. Personnel working in high-noise areas are provided ear protection.

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 Anchorage is not engaged in work involving non-human primates.

 

Medical Evaluation and Preventive Medicine for Personnel

The UAA 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 UAA 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 UAA Biosafety committee. All collection and archiving of serum from employees may be subject to approval by the UAA 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.

Concerns or identification of potential or known exposures as well as suspected health hazards and illnesses can be reported to UAA EH&S ( ayssg@uaa.alaska.edu or by calling 907-786-1351.

All injuries, accidents, bites, scratches, and allergic reactions are to be treated immediately. Following this, incidents are reported directly to the employee's immediate supervisor. Incident reports and/or workers compensation forms are completed and filed at the unit/departmental office with all forms subsequently distributed in accordance with guidelines established by the Statewide Office of Risk Management and UAA EH&S offices. Refer to the following links for detailed directions:

INCIDENT REPORTING:

Submitt the two forms listed below to UAA EH&S:

WORKERS' COMPENSATION REPORT OF INJURY OR ILLNESS (only complete this form if there is a reasonable expectation for professional medical attention beyond first aid or if the participant insists on completing the form):

UAA does not work with non-human primates and therefore has no programs/procedures in place for these animals. Please contact the UAA Vice Provost for Research  (907-786-4833) if you are planning any work with non-human primates.

 

References

  1. Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. 1996. National Academy Press, Washington D.C. 1996.
  2. 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.
  3. Committee on Occupational Safety and Health in Research Animal Facilities, National Research Council. 1997. Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals. National Academy Press. Washington D.C. pp168.
  4. Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Agricultural Research and Teaching, First Revised Edition. 1999. Federation of Animal Science Societies. 120pp.
  5. Guidelines for the Capture, Handling, and Care of Mammals as Approved by the American Society of Mammalogists (pdf file)
  6. Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research
  7. Guidelines for Use of Fishes in Field Research
  8. Guidelines for Use of Live Amphibians and Reptiles in Field Research

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