As part of their Animal Welfare Assurance, all research institutions that receive federal funding are required to establish and maintain a program that protects the health and safety of personnel (faculty, staff, and students) who care for and use animals for research and scholarship. The primary goal of the Occupational Health and Safety Program for animal users is to evaluate and address potential risks that may be associated with the care and use of animals in research and the classroom environment.
All students, staff and faculty who have frequent and/or substantial contact with animals or unfixed animal tissues are covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Program for Animal Users. Individuals are identified mainly through a review of animal care and use protocols. Visitors and others with incidental contact are informed of potential risks and preventative measures for avoiding risk.
Along with the IACUC, the OHSP is a component of the institutional Program for Animal Care and Use, as described in the institution's Animal Welfare Assurance. Texas State University, like all institutions receiving funding from the Public Health Services (PHS), must have an approved “Animal Welfare Assurance” from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW).
Texas State University, like all institutions receiving funding from the Public Health Services (PHS), must have an approved “Animal Welfare Assurance” from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW).
Section IV.A.f. of the Public Health Service Policy on Human Care and Use of Laboratory Animals states that a requirement under the purview of the Institutional Program for Animal Care and Use is a “the health program for personnel who work in laboratory facilities or have frequent contact with animals”.
While following federal mandates is important, even more important is the safety and health of people working with animals. While IACUC protocols provide oversight of the humane use of animals, the OHSP for animal users is designed to minimize health risks for persons caring for and using animals for research and scholarship.
All Individuals who have frequent and/or substantial contact with animals need to participate in the OHSP.
In cases where the field research is covered by an IACUC protocol and the IACUC deems there is a potential risk to personnel, participants must comply with the requirements of the program. All students, staff and faculty conducting or participating in field studies/research who have frequent and/or substantial contact with animals or unfixed animal tissues are covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Program for Animal Users. Typically, individuals who solely observe and are not responsible for the care and use of animals will not be required to enroll in the program. Ultimately, the assignment of field study/research duties regarding the use and care of animals should be delegated by the Principle Investigator or course instructor and documented in the Animal Use Protocol.
The simple answer is “yes” if the course involves activities such that individuals (faculty, instructors, course assistants, and/or students) have frequent and/or substantial contact with animals. A particular course may have some individuals who are animal users under this definition and others who are not because they do not have frequent and/or substantial contact with animals. Students participating in courses that involve limited contact with animals are not required to enroll in the program. Alternatively, the course instructor will provide participants with the following information:
Educational material regarding general information, potential hazards, universal precautions and personal hygiene
The availability of, and the option to request medical evaluation and treatment from the Student Health Center
The main components of the OHSP are: 1) enrollment, 2) completing a health questionnaire with a health care provider, 3) receiving certification from the health care provider that the assessment is complete, and 4) completing the required training.
Enrollment Procedure Individuals on a new IACUC protocol or individual added to a previously approved protocol, will be contacted by Research Integrity and Compliance (RIC) to complete enrollment procedures for the OHSP. This includes online training and the completion and submission of an Enrollment Form.
Health Questionnaire After the submission of the Enrollment Form, a health questionnaire is completed at the Texas State University Health Center or at an individual's own health care provider, focusing on the applicant medical history as it relates to their proposed animal contact, related zoonoses and other potential health hazards to determine if they require additional protections or accommodations.
According to communications with OLAW, the health questionnaire should be administered in a manner that is consistent with Federal, State, and Local HIPAA requirements for the collection, storage and transmittal of Private Health Information.
Certification After completion of the health questionnaire assessment, the health care provider will advise the individual as to what immunizations or other special considerations should be considered for their particular situation. The health care provider will complete a certification form with his/her signature and this form will be provided to the individual who can then bring/send it to the Becky Northcut in RIC. The certification form does not include any information provided on the health questionnaire and is not considered to be private health information.
Training At minimum, all program participants are required to complete the Occupational Health and Safety online training. The training is available online 24 hours a day, and applicants can save their progress, log in and out of modules, and finish the course at their own pace. Instructions on how to register and complete the training can be assessed HERE. Additional training may be required by the Principle Investigator and/or course instructor depending on the species, care, risk, and duration of animal exposure.
The primary responsibility of a faculty member is to comply with the University's Animal Care and Use Policy and work closely with the IACUC and the RIC to determine the appropriate risk level for students enrolled in their course.
Identified risks that are associated with course activities should be included in the course syllabi. Furthermore, course instructors should provide:
A description of course activities that may expose students to risks,
information regarding enrollment in the OHSP for Animal Users,
limiting or provide alternative activities for students who do not complete and participate in the program, or
a course enrollment roster to RIC.
The Principal Investigator on an Animal User Protocol should make sure that the protocol is continually updated to include the names of all individuals who are carrying out animal use activities covered by the protocol.
According to communication with OLAW, there is no waiver for a health questionnaire assessment for individuals who have frequent and/or substantial contact with animals based on species. Program requirements are applied according to the level of risk to personnel, regardless of animal species.
Diseases communicable from animals to humans are called zoonosis. In many cases the animals show little, if any, sign of illness. A bacterium in the normal flora of a healthy animal may cause a serious disorder in a person exposed to it. While the animals have developed “resistance” to these microorganisms, humans with no previous exposure to the agent lack this protective immunity. Therefore, one should always be aware of possible consequences when working with each type of animal and then take precautions to minimize the risk of infection.
Zoonosis can be acquired through various routes of infection, including contact with animal products, the animal itself, or a byproduct of the animal. The routes of infection include ingestion, inhalation, and penetration of broken or unbroken skin, wound penetration, and contact with the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth via the following:
Animal bites and scratches;
Contact with animal tissues and cultures, body fluids, and excreta;
Inanimate objects that are contaminated by the animal or animal contact; and
Exposure to aerosols produced as a result of activities such as cleaning cages.
The possible presence of zoonosis is one reason that individuals participating in the care of animals also must participate in the OHSP for animal users.
The individual must enroll, they must meet with a health practitioner to complete the health assessment questionnaire, they must turn in their signed certification form and they must complete the required training.
It is highly recommended that all individuals working with animals have an active Tetanus vaccination. It is also highly recommended that all individuals working with animals receive the vaccinations that are recommended by their health care provider.