Occupational Health


General Occupational Health Program Information:

The Veterinarian or Animal Care Manager provides occupational health and safety training to all individuals who come in contact with animals during the Animal Care Program certification process by providing information about working with hazardous materials, risk assessments, zoonoses, allergies, injury reporting, PPE, etc. Al individuals coming in contact with animals or animal tissues except for students in teaching classes and individuals conducting observational studies are provided with the “Occupational Health Program for Personnel with Laboratory Animal Contact” brochure.. Students in teaching classes and individuals conducting observational field studies receive information about the occupational health and safety program in the training short entitled, “Use of Live Animals in Teaching Classes and Observational Field Studies”.

The Occupational Health brochure contains information on zoonotic diseases, tetanus vaccinations, allergens, injury issues, and hazards in the lab. Individuals who may come in contact with animals or animal tissues that can cause allergies also receive the Lab Animal Allergen brochure. Animal users are informed that there is a system for reporting injuries that may occur on the job through the Workers Compensation program for employees and the Risk Management program for students or volunteers. First aid kits and disinfectant soaps are readily available to all animal users throughout the facilities. A mandatory facilities training program is in place for animal users working in ARC animal facilities that covers PPE, eyewash, injuries, bite wounds, disaster plans, and other safety items specific to ARC facilities.

There is a mandatory “Animal Care Program Health Assessment Questionnaire” that all individuals who come in contact with animals or their tissues are required to initially complete. The form aids in assessing if the individual is “at-risk” working in the lab animal environment. The forms are reviewed by occupational health professionals at Ascension. Individuals are advised to seek further health care from their personal physician if the Ascension Occupational Health professionals deem it necessary.

Health insurance is available to faculty and staff. Students may seek medical care from the Norris Health Center if they do not have the resources to see a personal physician. The ARC will provide follow-up health assessment for any Limited Term Employees that are employed who do not have health insurance. This is limited to an amount that will cover the cost of further allergy assessments.

The animal care program does not have any access to the medical information but is informed that individuals have completed the questionnaire. The Animal Care Program oversees the program, and a list of individuals who complete the “Animal Care Program Health Assessment Questionnaire” is kept on file. Individuals who completed the initial Assessment form are sent an annual reminder to complete the Animal Care Program “Health Assessment Questionnaire-Follow-Up” forms. Completion of these forms is voluntary, but the individual must choose to either complete the form or “opt-out”. They are reviewed in the same fashion as the initial forms by qualified health professionals.


If You Work with Hazardous Agents:

Hazardous biological, chemical, and physical agents may be encountered when working with animals or in animal facilities. Training is available and should be performed prior to working with these potentially hazardous agents. Individuals should be aware of, understand, and know how to protect themselves from hazards prior to working with these agents. Examples of biological agents include E. coli and Salmonella; chemical agents include disinfectants, pesticides, and feed or bedding contaminants; and physical agents include hot materials from the autoclave or cage wash machines.

Read and follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) for working with hazardous agents. SOPs should address safety measures that include the use of personal protective equipment, exhaust ventilation (i.e., fume hood and biological safety cabinet), and techniques for handling the hazardous agents as well as where to find hazard information about the agent (i.e., Material Safety Data Sheet).

Good personal hygiene practices are critical when working around hazardous agents and animals. Hand washing after removing gloves, handling chemicals, infectious materials, or animals, and before leaving the laboratory is critical. All work surfaces—after work and daily—should be decontaminated. All contaminated materials should be decontaminated by autoclaving or chemical disinfection before washing, reuse, or disposal.

For further information on working with hazardous agents, contact your supervisor or the Department of University Safety & Assurances at 229-6339.

In Case of Injury:

Response to Animal Bites or Scratches:

  1. Wash wound thoroughly with soap and warm water. Wound may then be cleaned with betadine scrub and/or hydrogen peroxide. Betadine wipes and hydrogen peroxide are in the cabinets in Garland-Pearse animal rooms and above the sink in Lapham B59A, indicated with a first aid sign.
  1. Bandage the wound and apply pressure to stop any bleeding.
  • Quarantine and/or label the animal involved, if possible.
  1. All animal bites should be evaluated by a medical professional. Of greatest concern are bites or scratches that are deep, that occur over joints or tendons, and that will not stop bleeding after 10-15 minutes of direct pressure. If any swelling, redness, or increasing pain occurs around the injury site, see your health care provider immediately.
  1. Report the incident to your supervisor and complete any necessary forms (see next section).

Injury Reporting

If you are injured while working with animals or an animal-related health problem is suspected, report the problem to your immediate supervisor and the Animal Care Manager or Veterinarian.

If you are faculty, staff, graduate teaching or graduate project assistant or undergraduate student employee complete: Employee’s Work Injury and Illness Report within the first 24 hours of the injury (Contact the Worker’s Compensation Office for forms at x4463 or check the following website https://uwm.edu/hr/home/forms/absences-leaves-and-workers-compensation-forms/ ).

If you are an undergraduate student not employed by UWM or a graduate student research assistant (payrolled by UWM) complete: General Incident Report (Contact the Risk Management Office at x6339 for forms or check the following website https://uwm.edu/risk-management/forms/ ).

If the problem has occurred during, or after, normal business hours and needs emergency care you may contact the Campus Police at 9-911 for assistance.

If the problem has occurred during normal business hours and is not an emergency you may go to the Norris Health Center (students only) or to your personal physician.

If any swelling or redness occurs around the injured site see a physician as soon as possible.

Pregnant Women:

Working with hazardous agents (in particular exposure to toxic chemicals and certain anesthetic vapors) should be avoided especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. Your supervisor or the Department of University Safety and Assurances may be consulted for Material Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals in the workplace.

All women who are considering pregnancy or are pregnant should inform their physician of their job duties and provide a list of possible exposures in the workplace.


Lab Safety & Personal Protective Equipment