Safety Policies

SY23 Occupational Health and Safety Program for Animal Care Personnel

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Beata Clapp, 814-865-6391,

Policy Steward: 

Associate Vice President for Research, Director of the Office for Research Protections / Director of Environmental Health and Safety



To provide a safe work place and to comply with regulatory mandates for animal care personnel. These personnel may, in the course of their employment, research, or education, be exposed to animals and/or tissues, fluids, secretions, and excretions in a way that puts them at increased risk of an occupational illness or injury. Occupational Medicine (OM) and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) administer the Occupational Health and Safety Program (OHSP), in cooperation with the Office for Research Protections (ORP) and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).

This policy applies to animal care personnel for all locations of The Pennsylvania State University, except for the College of Medicine/Milton S. Hershey Medical Center ("COM") which has its own OHSP.


The requirements for an OHSP are described in the following resources: The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, latest edition (Institute for Laboratory Animal Resources), Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals (NRC) and the Guide for the Care and use of Agricultural Animals in Agricultural Experimentation and Teaching, latest edition (Federation of Animal Science Societies).


This policy applies to any University employee (faculty, staff, technical service, and student, both wage payroll and work-study), volunteer, or visitor who works with animals under the auspices of Penn State and in accordance with RP04. The policy also applies to those who handle cages and related equipment contaminated by animal tissues, secretions, and/or excretions (i.e., Animal Resource Program husbandry staff, Office of Physical Plant staff).

Participation in the OHSP is not required for students whose only exposure to animals is in a classroom setting. However, the instructor must inform the students about any health risks associated with the species with which they will be working. For example, students working with birds in a classroom setting shall be informed about psittacosis; students working with sheep shall be informed about Q fever. Instructors are responsible for providing and documenting this information.

Employees, volunteers, and visitors working with animals are required to follow all safe work practices and be enrolled in the University's OHSP. Visitors that are not working with animals must be made aware of animal-related hazards before they enter the premises and facility supervisors are responsible for providing this information.


All persons who work with animals under the auspices of Penn State and in accordance with RP04 shall enroll in the Occupational Health and Safety Program. A risk based assessment of all persons involved in amimal care is conducted to determine their level of participation in the OHSP. This assessment considers the nature and duration of exposure, hazards posed by the animals and materials used, and susceptibility of personal. Occupational Medicine staff review personal information provided by personnel on a completed "Occupational Health Assessment for Animal Care Personnel" form. During this review, Occupational Medicine staff may recommend preventative medical procedures and/or health monitoring tailored to the personnel's risk, training in animal health related issues, and implementation of appropriate safety measures. Additional on-site evaluations may be conducted by EHS staff to evaluate work practices, use of personal protective equipment, and other safety-related factors associated with animal care activities. 


  1. Budget Executives and Budget Administrators shall ensure that all supervisors enroll all regular employees and student employees who work with animals in the OHSP. In addition, they shall ensure that job descriptions accurately reflect the types of animal-related activities expected of the employee, the animal species with which the employee will have direct or indirect contact, and conditions in the job that may affect the health of the employee. Performance of these functions will ensure compliance with applicable state and federal health and safety rules, regulations, standards, and procedures.

  2. Supervisors (department chairs, faculty, and other employees with direct oversight of University employees or students) will ensure that each employee, volunteer, and visitor under their supervision who works with animals is enrolled in the OHSP.

  3. The IACUC is responsible for ensuring an appropriate OHSP is in place and for conducting semi-annual reviews of the program as it pertains to personnel working with animals. As required by the IACUC, all employees, volunteers, and visitors must be enrolled in the OHSP before they can begin working with animals. 

  4. The ORP is responsible for ensuring that individuals who have direct or indirect contact with animals under the auspices of Penn State and in accordance with RP04 are enrolled in OHSP. All individuals listed on a Penn State IACUC application will be required to complete the "Occupational Health Assessment for Animal Care Personnel" form which is maintained by the Department of Occupational Medicine. ORP will maintain enrollment and training records, and it will coordinate transfer of information between Occupational Medicine, EHS, and the IACUC.

  5. EHS will conduct appropriate evaluations, discussions, and/or site visits to ensure appropriate health and safety practices are in-place. Recommendations for occupational health and safety will be provided to the Supervisor/Principal Investigator, Unit Safety Officer, ORP, and IACUC Chair, for implementation by the responsible animal resource director, principal investigator, or supervisor. The recommendations will be forwarded to Occupational Medicine for further review.  EHS will maintain training records for individuals attending risk-specific training provided by EHS staff.

  6. Occupational Medicine will review an individual's "Occupational Health Assessment for Animal Care Personnel" form and the risk assessment provided by EHS. Using this information, Occupational Medicine will prescribe risk-specific preventive measures and health monitoring to reduce animal related risks, and it will maintain all employee medical records. Additionally, Occupational Medicine will alert employees and supervisors to extraordinary animal-related risks due to medical conditions.

  7. Medical histories, physical examinations, immunizations and laboratory tests may be required at periodic intervals, as determined by Occupational Medicine.

  8. In Accordance with SY01 employees, students and visitors shall report all unsafe conditions, practices or equipment to the supervisor, instructor or Safety Officer whenever deficiencies are noted.


All individuals working with animals covered by RP04 must complete an on-line training required by the IACUC and coordinated by ORP.  Supplemental risk-specific training may also be required when necessary and as determined the OHSP. 


The IACUC, through its responsibilities listed above, will enforce adherence to this policy. In response to violations of this policy, the IACUC has the final authority to suspend or terminate an activity involving the use of animals. 


  1. All injuries, illnesses or accidents shall be reported immediately to the employee's supervisor in accordance with policy SY03 (students) or SY04 (employees). Injuries or illnesses that occur in visitors or volunteers shall be reported in accordance with SY05.

  2. Persons injured on the job at University Park during normal business hours must report to Occupational Medicine, 3rd floor Centre Medical Sciences Building, 1850 E. Park Avenue. After hours, persons with job-related injuries that require immediate medical attention should report to the nearest emergency room. Job-related injuries that occur after hours, and that do not require immediate medical attention should be reported within 24 hours to Occupational Medicine. Those who are injured at other University campuses should seek medical care from the designated health care provider as directed by Occupational Medicine.

  3. In accordance with SY04, all employee, volunteer, or visitor accidents, injuries or illnesses will be investigated promptly by the supervisor and Safety Officer. Appropriate corrective measures shall be implemented to prevent reoccurrence.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office for Research Protection or the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.


Other Policies in this Manual should also be referenced, especially:

RP04 - Care and Use of Vertebrate Animals

SY01 - Environmental Health &Safety Policy

SY03 - Emergencies Involving Students

SY04 - Employee Accidents - Reporting and Investigation

SY05 - Persons, Other Than Students or Employees, Who Are Injured or Become Ill on University Property

Most Recent Changes:

  • May 17, 2024 - Editorial changes. Changed contact person from R Segura to B. Clapp. Replaced "vertebrated animals" with "animals".

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • January 13, 2023 - Editorial change to update Subject Matter Expert and Policy Steward.
  • March 06, 2019 - Editorial changes.  Changed name from OHS (Occupational Health Services) to Occupational Medicine.
  • June 18, 2014 - Editorial changes. Addition of policy steward information, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.
  • July 2, 2003 - Editorial changes: "Office for Regulatory Compliance (ORC)" changed to "Office for Research Protections (ORP)." Address for Occupational Health Services was changed.
  • April 11, 2002 - New Policy.

Date Approved: 

May 21, 2024

Date Published: 

May 21, 2024

Effective Date: 

May 21, 2024