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Occupational Health & Safety Program: Requirements for Individuals With Research Animal Exposure

UC San Diego's Occupational Health and Safety Program (OHSP) requirements for employees and affiliates who work with or near research animals.

OHSP enrollment is required for campus community members who have direct contact with animals, animal waste, animal tissue or enter the vivarium.

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UC San Diego is committed to maintaining AAALAC accreditation, which includes specific guidelines for occupational health and safety.

Personnel working with research animals face several occupational health risks, including the possibility of allergic reactions, animal-related injuries such as bites or kicks, zoonoses (diseases that spread from animals to humans), and exposure to hazardous materials.

UCSD's Occupational Health and Safety Program (OHSP) provides information and procedures to protect the health and safety of individuals working with or near research animals. The program is administered in accordance with applicable university policy, as well as privacy and regulatory requirements.

OHSP has 3 parts:

  1. Risk assessment
  2. Medical surveillance
  3. Safety training

1. Risk assessment

Risk assessment evaluates the physical risks, work processes, and hazardous materials related to the work and the environment in which it is conducted.

Requirement for OSHP enrollment

For every participant with direct research animal contact or requiring access to vivaria, the PI/supervisor must complete a risk assessment. Once completed, the participant will complete a health questionnaire. This will determine if their work assignment and/or medical status pose exposure risks that may require additional health recommendations or safety measures.

Voluntary enrollment

Individuals entering laboratories where research animals are present but who have no direct animal contact may voluntarily enroll in the program by completing the risk assessment and health questionnaire.


  • Principal investigators (PIs)/supervisors are responsible for ensuring that faculty, staff, and students working in their research space enroll in the OHSP as required by:
    • Initiating and completing risk assessment forms A and B (PDFs)
    • Offering required medical evaluations and recommended immunizations
    • Implementing work restrictions if applicable
  • Participants with animal contact are responsible for:
    • Reviewing their risk assessments documented by their PI/supervisor
    • Completing their health questionnaires
    • Updating their risk assessments and health questionnaire every three years or anytime a change in work exposures, animal contact, or health status occurs

Risk assessment process

  1. PI/supervisor creates a Risk Assessment for the participant(s) using the Occupational Health Surveillance System (OHSS)* or completing risk assessment forms A and B (PDFs).
    • Log in using your UCSD Business Systems (Single Sign-On) account username and password
    • Click Create Risk Assessment
    • Enter participant's last name and click Search
    • If the specific individual cannot be found, use the newly added Can’t Find the Person link next to the Name Search box to indicate what steps to take
    • From the search results, select the participant. If multiple participants are included in this Risk Assessment, click Add Participant.
    • Complete the nine sections of the Risk Assessment:
      • Animal Contact
      • Exposures
      • Biological Agents
      • Physical Agents
      • Chemical Agents
      • Training
      • Animal Exposures
      • Blood Borne Pathogens Exposure Control
      • General Safety
    • Check the Supervisor Signature box and select Create Risk Assessment
    • Note: A completed Risk Assessment can be copied to expedite the creation of multiple Risk Assessments with similar hazards. Find the participant who's Risk Assessment you'd like to copy and select Copy Risk Assessment. Search for and select the participant you wish to apply to, make any edits needed, and select Create Risk Assessment.

*New enhancements as of March 25, 2015:

    • Revised User Guides are available on the Help Tutorials tab
    • Users without roles who have completed assessments can now search for their completed assessments in the Complete Assessments tab    
    • Users without roles who have created Risk Assessments for themselves can now see their assessments under the My Assessment tab
    • The character limit in OHSS text boxes have been expanded from 255 to 3,300 characters including spaces
    • Bug note — A user can log into OHSS from the Help page
  1. Participant receives email notification allowing access to review the Risk Assessment. After reviewing, the participant is asked to accept or disagree.
    • If I Disagree is selected, the Risk Assessment is sent back to the PI/supervisor for editing.
    • If I Accept is selected, the participant will receive a health questionnaire to complete.
  2. Participant accepts Risk Assessment and completes the confidential Health Questionnaire
    • Note: The PI/supervisor does not see the Health Questionnaire. It is only routed to the EH&S Occupational Health Nurse.
    • Participants need their medical history and immunization records to complete the questionnaire sections on:
        • Vaccines
        • Tuberculosis Screening
        • General History
        • Exposures
        • Biological Hazards
        • Allergies
        • Prescription Medications
        • Health Status Changes
        • Participants can access and modify their Health Questionnaire (as needed) from the Occupational Health Surveillance System (OHSS).
  3. EH&S Occupational Health Nurse reviews participant's Risk Assessment and Health Questionnaire, and completes the Medical Assessment to send to the participant. If the nurse has questions, she will contact the participant.
  4. Participant receives email notification to review and acknowledge the Medical Assessment, where the EH&S Occupational Health Nurse either approves the participant for work and/or recommends additional medical services.
Some individuals will be required to participate in additional medical surveillance. Others may be required to receive an occupational medical consult. Consultations and screenings are specific to the species each person contacts.
Based on questionnaire review, a Medical Clearance Form will be emailed to enrolled individuals and their PI/supervisor. The form will indicate species clearance, immunization recommendations, additional medical evaluation (if applicable), and work restrictions (if applicable).
Vivarium access can be denied or revoked until the UCSD Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine (COEM) has medically cleared you to work in a vivarium environment.

2. Medical surveillance


Medical monitoring is required for employees and students who:

  • Have direct contact with research animal or tissue
  • Work with or enter areas with non-human primates, pregnant non-rodent mammals, wild birds, or wild mammals

Participation in a pre-placement medical surveillance is required for most employees who will have contact with research animals. A three-year medical surveillance follow-up is required. In select cases, more frequent medical evaluations, testing, and vaccinations may be required.


PIs/supervisors are responsible for ensuring that faculty, staff, and students working in their research space participate in medical surveillance as required.

Medical surveillance service providers

The EH&S Occupational Health Nurse and UCSD Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine (COEM) are the only acceptable providers of medical surveillance. Consultations and exams are specific to the species each person contacts.

Important: Obtain an Authorization Form and/or the EH&S recharge index number from the EH&S Occupational Health Nurse prior to making a COEM appointment.

The EH&S Occupational Health Nurse and COEM conduct exams and maintain all medical records in accordance with current regulatory, privacy, and confidentiality requirements.


  • Initial OHSP enrollment and screening is provided at no cost by the EH&S Occupational Health Nurse.
  • For UCSD-paid individuals and registered volunteers:
    • Costs for additional medical evaluation, testing, vaccinations, or other medical services received at COEM are paid for through UCOP Risk Management funding, if recommended and approved by the EH&S Occupational Health Nurse.
  • For individuals not paid by UCSD and unregistered volunteers:
    • The PI is responsible for the cost of additional medical evaluation or services (except vaccinations or TB testing) received at COEM when required to complete OSHP enrollments.
    • Campus EH&S funding currently covers the cost of vaccinations and TB testing at COEM, if recommended and approved by the EH&S Occupational Health Nurse.

Department index number

Employees must provide a department index number when receiving services, generally only used for tracking purposes. However, if the services are not authorized by the EH&S Occupational Health Nurse, the recharge may be made back to the department index number.


Recommended job-related immunizations are voluntary with the exception of mandatory immunizations indicated for specific work exposure (e.g., non-human primate contact may require measles vaccination).

How to get immunizations

  • Participants will receive email notification of immunizations recommended by the EH&S Occupational Health Nurse.
  • Participants will call COEM to schedule an appointment at either the La Jolla office, (858) 657-1600, or the Hillcrest office, (619) 471-9210. Be ready to provide the EH&S department recharge index number. See COEM locations.

Participants may choose to obtain vaccinations through their personal physician. Send copies of vaccination records to the EH&S Occupational Health Nurse:

  • Fax: (858) 534-7561 (confidential fax)
  • Mail Code: 0090

3. Safety training


All employees working with research animals must take Orientation to Animal Research at UCSD presented by Animal Care Program Technical Training Services.

Additional training may be required or recommended for specific risk factors or conditions specific to your job tasks.


PIs are responsible for assessing health and safety risks associated with their research projects and implementing appropriate standard operating procedures, equipment, and safety training.

Consult with Environment, Health & Safety, (858) 534-6059, regarding:

  • Facilities design and maintenance
  • Research design and procedures
  • Hazardous materials involved
Related links:

Occupational Health and Safety Related Links

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