Safety Policies

SY23 Occupational Health and Safety Program for Animal Care Personnel

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Jim Crandall, 863-3767,

Policy Steward: 

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 vertebrate 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 at all locations of The Pennsylvania State University (except the Hershey Medical Center).


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) describe the requirements for an Occupational Health and Safety program.


This policy applies to any University employee (faculty, staff, and student, both wage payroll and work-study), volunteer, or visitor who works with vertebrate animals and/or tissues, fluids, secretions, and excretions from vertebrates. The policy also applies to those who handle cages and related equipment contaminated by animal tissues, secretions, and/or excretions.

Participation in the Occupational Health and Safety Program 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 this information.

Volunteers and students are required to follow all safe work practices and visitors must be made aware of animal-related hazards before they enter the premises. Facility supervisors are responsible for providing this information.

A risk-based assessment of all persons involved in animal care is conducted to determine their level of participation in the Occupational Health and Safety Program. This assessment considers the nature and duration of exposure, hazards posed by the animals and materials used, and susceptibility of personnel. This assessment includes a review of information provided on the completed Animal Worker Questionnaire by Occupational Medicine staff and on-site evaluations by EHS staff to evaluate work practices, use of personal protective equipment, and other safety-related factors associated with animal care activities.


All persons involved in animal care and service shall participate in the Occupational Health and Safety Program. This program includes an assessment of risks associated with the employee's (employee in this context refers to any person involved in the care of animals or research utilizing animals, as outlined in the Applicability: section above) animal-related duties and types of animals involved and their working conditions, as well as an assessment of their potential medical predisposition to animal related health risks. Preventive medical procedures and health monitoring tailored to the employee's risks, training in animal health related issues, and implementation of appropriate safety measures is also included to help minimize risks.


  1. Budget Executives and Budget Administrators shall ensure that all supervisors enroll all regular employees and student employees who are identified as "at risk" in the Occupational Health and Safety Program. 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 under their supervision who is identified as "at risk" will participate in the Occupational Health and Safety Program.

    New employees who are at risk will be offered an initial baseline occupational health exam, and will also be offered periodic medical surveillance, as prescribed by Occupational Medicine. Any employee who chooses not to participate in this program must sign a declination statement.

  3. The ORP is responsible for ensuring that individuals who have direct or indirect contact with animals used for research, teaching, or demonstrations are enrolled in the Occupational Health and Safety Program. ORP will coordinate transfer of information between Occupational Medicine, EHS, and the IACUC, which is responsible for ensuring an appropriate Occupational Health program is in place and for conducting a review of the program as it pertains to animal use. The IACUC requires that all employees (faculty, staff, student employees) who are associated with a research or teaching activity involving animals are enrolled in the Program before approving their participation in the activity. All Penn State University individuals listed on an IACUC application will be required to complete the Occupational Health Assessment for Animal Workers which is maintained by the Department of Occupational Medicine. ORP will maintain training records.

  4. Occupational Medicine will review the Animal Worker Questionnaire completed by the animal worker. 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 completed Questionnaire and 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.

  5. Occupational Medicine will review the employee's Animal Worker Questionnaire, medical history and the risk assessment provided by EHS to ensure the appropriate level of risk associated with the animal contact and use and the medical suitability of the employee for the demands of the position. Occupational Medicine will prescribe risk-specific preventive measures, health monitoring to reduce animal related risk, and maintain all employee medical records. OHS shall also alert employee and supervisors to extraordinary animal-related risks due to medical conditions. 

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

  6. 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 vertebrate animals shall participate in an on-line training program through ORP. Individuals identified through the Occupational Health and Safety Program as "at risk" shall also attend supplemental risk-specific training.


The IACUC, through its responsibilities listed above, will ensure enforcement of this policy. Research or teaching activities that involve individuals who are at increased risk but who are not enrolled in the Occupational Health and Safety Program may be interrupted or terminated at the discretion of the Committee.


  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 the 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. All employee, student or visitor accidents, injuries or illnesses will be investigated promptly by the supervisor. Appropriate corrective measures to prevent reoccurrence shall be implemented.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Director 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

SY24 - Use of Biohazardous Materials in Research and Instruction

Most Recent Changes:

  • 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.

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • 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: 

June 28, 2019

Date Published: 

June 28, 2019

Effective Date: 

June 28, 2019