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Animal Contact






Explanation of Key Terms



The purpose of the Occupational Health and Safety Program for Personnel with Animal Contact is to minimize the health and safety risk of working with vertebrate animals to an acceptable level.

This description of the Occupational Health and Safety Program for Personnel with Animal Contact (OHSPAC) serves as NCSU's written policy for occupational risk reduction for those using or exposed to animals in research or teaching.


Personnel included are those 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.

The OHSP includes all:

  • full time, part time, and temporary personnel, involved in animal care in NCSU units that house animals for research and teaching
  • research investigators and their technical staff
  • instructors involved with animal related work
  • faculty and staff in the CVM Veterinary Teaching Hospital who have animal contact
  • other 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).

Participants are organized into categories that reflect the specific surveillance needs of the individuals based on real or potential occupational exposure to specific species of animals. Specific health risk information can be found at the Animal Contact Assessment Table.

  • Category 1 Personnel are those with only one-time contact with animals (or tissues, etc.), or those whose contact is limited to directly supervised activities in teaching laboratories.
  • Category 2 Personnel are those working in animal husbandry, or having contact more than one-time, with animals (or tissues, etc.).


The Program Components include:

  • Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
  • Personnel Training
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Facilities, Procedures, and Monitoring
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Medical Evaluation and Preventive Medicine

The assessment of risk will be determined by frequency of contact, 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. Baseline risk assessment will involve occupational health specialists and, depending on personnel category, may include completion of job duties and medical questionnaires, interview with an occupational health specialist, and a physical examination.

  • Category 1 Personnel must receive specific instruction on the health risks associated with their animal contact. They will not routinely fill out a questionnaire or visit the contract medical provider.
  • Category 2 Personnel fill out a "Vertebrate Animal Contact Medical Questionnaire" for initial enrollment into the program. The supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the questionnaire is completed and appropriate sections are sent to Student Health Services. A medical provider will review the questionnaire; any follow-up discussion with the employee, or medical examination, will be at the discretion of the medical provider.

In addition to the above baseline evaluation, all personnel will receive regular training and/or notification of health risks associated with animal contact, including the importance of medical follow-up if problems (e.g., allergy) arise.

All personnel working with animals should receive tetanus vaccination every 10 years, and those who have contact with random source or wild mammals, or mammals kept outdoors, should receive rabies vaccination. Additional special procedures/vaccinations may be necessary for certain projects such as work with non-human primates. The supervisor is responsible for notifying employees of vaccination requirements and ensuring that vaccinations are received according to occupational physicians recommendations.


Supervisor's Responsibility

  1. The supervisor will ensure that personnel under their supervision:
    • Are properly enrolled and categorized, according to this policy.
    • Complete questionnaire forms and route them properly.
    • Obtain needed vaccinations.
    • Are appropriately oriented to health and safety risks in their working environment.
  2. Understands Responsibility - Supervisors and PI's should review NCSU Health and Safety Manual sections which apply to his/her operation.
  3. Personal Protective Equipment - OSHA requires that each supervisor perform an assessment of the hazards of their work area to determine the type of protective equipment needed. This review must be documented. In addition to forms provided in safety plan mailings (Hazard Assessment Form), the Protective Equipment section of the NC State Health and Safety Manual contains information to assist in this review.
  4. Employee Training - Supervisors and PIs are responsible to assure that each new employee, whether temporary or permanent, receives appropriate safety training at the start of employment. Supervisors should use the Managers Safety Orientation Checklist as the means for training new employees. This form, once completed and signed, should be maintained in the employee's personnel file. The written Safety Plan, required for all work areas where hazardous materials or equipment are used, also serves as the basis for employee safety training. The Training Information section of the EHSC home page provides further information on safety training information available. Safety Meeting Presentations are available on selected topics to assist supervisors with periodic safety training.
  5. For visitors, trainees and other non-NCSU employees, please refer to Supervisor’s Responsibilities section, item no. 12 for occupational medicine program requirements.

    For NCSU Students, paid or volunteer, please refer to Supervisor’s Responsiblities section, item no. 7 for occupational medicine program requirements.

In addition to reviewing the Managers Safety Orientation Checklist with each new employee, specific training on animal contact risks is available at the Animal Contact Assessment Table site. Information is given on such topics as allergies to specific species, zoonotic infections and physical injuries.

The list below is not comprehensive and includes areas that all employees should have familiarization with. The above website contains information relevant to these areas. Training provided to the employee should be maintained in his/her personnel file.

1. Medical response for animal bites, scratches and traumatic
2. Recognition and response for zoonotic infections.
3. Personal hygiene practices
4. Correct use of personal protective equipment
5. Correct handling of waste material

Training Resources

Lists of several professional organizations, societies and universities that sponsor seminars and continuing education seminars, publish journals and produce tutorial programs can be found in the Zoonotic Disease Reference and Resources sections of the Animal Contact Assessment Table.

  1. Self Inspections - Each supervisor is required to conduct regular inspections of their work area. As a minimum, an annual inspection of the work area using the Supervisor's Safety Inspection Checklist is required for each supervisor required to complete a safety plan. The most recent Supervisor's Safety Inspection Checklist must be retained with the supervisor's copy of the safety plan in the work area.
  2. Corrective Action Closure - Supervisors must assure that corrective action is taken and completed on deficiencies noted through inspections conducted by Environmental Health and Safety, the NC Department of Insurance, their own self inspections, or resulting from investigations of accidents and incidents.
  3. Employee Involvement - Supervisors should involve their employees in their accident prevention activities. Employee observation and feedback to correct at-risk behaviors of coworkers and praise safe behaviors is an effective and recommended technique. Teams of employees and peers for investigating accidents and incidents and to perform workplace inspections is also recommended.
  4. Medical Surveillance - Supervisors should review this section of the Medical Surveillance Program for information concerning medical exam preparation, physician's reports and medical record keeping.

In addition to training efforts and responsibilities referred to above, there is specific information on the OHSPAC included in the training required by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Please consult the References section for sources.

HR, Academic, or Ag. Extension Personnel Responsibility

Please refer to this section in the Medical Surveillance program for information on medical record keeping.

Environmental Health and Safety Center Responsibilities

    1. Coordinate the OHSPAC program for the University.
    2. Act as NCSU liaison with the contract medical provider.
    3. Work in cooperation with supervisors and the contract medical provider to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the medical surveillance aspect of the program.



Category 1 personnel will not enroll in the OHSPAC, but must receive training specific to their animal exposure. The supervisor is responsible for providing and documenting training.

Enrollment of Category 2 personnel in the OHSPAC should occur prior to the participant's exposure to animals, their viable tissues, body fluids or wastes. As discussed above, the supervisor has a central role in ensuring personnel health and safety in the workplace, including participation in the OHSPAC.

Category 2 employees initially enrolling into the program must complete both sections A and B of the "Vertebrate Animal Contact Medical Questionnaire," and send it to the Student Health Services in a sealed envelope.

For employees who have submitted a previous questionnaire a subsequent questionnaire may be requires as described below:

  1. Whenever there is a change in health status that could increase your risk of health problems due to exposures to animals, such as developing a new onset asthma or contact allergy.
  2. Whenever there is a change in your job description dealing with animal handling e.g. from changing bedding to shaving animals.
  3. Whenever there is a change in animal species or biological materials.

Student Health Services is responsible for tracking participation in the OHSPAC.

If an employee wishes to decline participation in a portion of the entire health assessment program the supervisor needs to be informed. The supervisor must consult with the a student health services physician at (919) 513-2380 in circumstances where an employee refuses to complete Part B of the questionnaire or refuses to comply with physicians recommendations. Declining participation in a required element may result in exclusion from certain positions or work activities.

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) confirms program participation for all individuals/studies/classes involving animal contact. Costs of the OHSPAC are paid in-part through the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.

Accidents and Illnesses

The supervisor has the responsibility to investigate all accidents happening in their work area, and must fill out a Supervisor's Accident/Illness Report form for both employees and students, and a Workers Compensation Form 19 for employees. Please refer to Occupational Accents, Illness, and Reports site for instructions on completing required forms and a list of approved emergency care centers.

  • If an employee is injured during working hours, his supervisor should call Blue Ridge Primary Care before sending the employee for treatment (783-9600). If Blue Ridge Primary Care is closed the injured person should go to the nearest health care facility.
  • In case of serious injury or illness, the immediate concern is to aid the injured or sick person. The following procedures are to be used:
      1. You may contact Campus Police immediately by use of any on-campus telephone: DIAL 911, or use any Campus blue light phone for immediate response.
      2. For any off-campus emergency, dial 911 or the appropriate local emergency number.

Additional supervisor responsibilities for reporting accidents are described in the Accidents program.

Possible Rabies Exposure:

If you are exposed to a potentially rabid animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, and seek medical attention immediately. A health care provider will care for the wound and will assess the risk for rabies exposure. The following information will help your health care provider assess your risk:

  • the geographic location of the incident
  • the type of animal that was involved
  • how the exposure occurred (provoked or unprovoked)
  • the vaccination status of the animal
  • whether the animal can be safely captured and tested for rabies

Steps taken by the health care provider will depend on the circumstances of the bite. Your health care practitioner should consult state or local health departments, veterinarians, or animal control officers to make an informed assessment of the incident and to request assistance. The important factor is that you seek care promptly after you are bitten by the animal.


All services will be paid for out of a special fund for employees working in academic/research departments. However, departments will be invoiced directly for services conducted for all other employees.


Many different kinds of physical, environmental, or biological hazards are associated with the use of animals in teaching or research. Some examples are given below:

Potential Risk of Due to Examples
Back Injury + Other Acute Injury (crush, abrasion, laceration) Lifting feed bags
Pushing cage racks
Twisting restraining large animals
Falling slip on wet floor
Getting stepped on, kicked, etc. handling, restraint of large animals
Burn Hot water, steam cage washer, autoclave, steam cleaner
Ocular Injury Particulates, UV, chemicals bedding, UV lights, chemicals
Chronic Injury Repetitive motion cage changes
Hearing Loss Noise cage wash areas, dog runs
Electrical Shock Faulty electrical wiring water on floor, ungrounded equipment
Puncture Wound Bite or scratch Unrestrained animal
Needle stick Injecting or bleeding Improper sharps disposal
Exposure Allergens Animal hair, dander, serum, animal proteins
Biohazards Human pathogens, zoonotic agents, latent or introduced
Chemicals Hazardous materials on test, disinfectants, acids for cage washers, anesthetics
Radiation Research isotopes, X-ray equipment


Requirements for an occupational health program for the personnel working with laboratory animals are found in the following references:

  • Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals that codifies the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (National Research Council, 1996)
  • Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals (National Research Council, 1997)
  • Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, 4th ed. (US Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institutes of Health, 1999)
  • Code of Federal Regulations, Title 10, Part 20 and Title 29, Part 1910

Explanation of Key Terms

Risk is a statement of probability that harm, injury, or disease will occur in the occupational setting. The degree of risk can, and does, vary with an assortment of factors.

Risk assessment is the evaluation of scientific information on the hazardous properties of an agent and on the extent of human exposure that yields a qualitative or quantitative statement of the probability and degree of risk or harm estimated for individuals or populations.

Hazard is a recognized risk. Once a risk is recognized and assessed, appropriate adjustments can be made to modify the underlying factors that contribute to the risk, or behaviors can be modified to reduce exposure to those risks. The risks can be abated through engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and by administrative control to include: modifying practices and procedures, pre-placement and periodic examinations, training, etc.

Safe is the state of being free from risk or when an acceptable level of risk has been achieved.