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Staff and Students Working with Animals

On this page: Personal Hygiene | Education and Training | The Occupational Health Program | Medical Surveillance | Allergies

Personal Hygiene

Persons working with animals are required to maintain a high standard for personal cleanliness to reduce the risk of contracting diseases transmitted by animals. It is essential that facilities and supplies for meeting this obligation be provided. Clothing suitable for use in an animal facility is to be worn by all persons coming into contact with animals. For animal care staff, the clothing should be separate from that worn outside the animal facility and should be supplied and laundered by the institution. Clothing exposed to potentially hazardous microbial agents or toxic substances is to be decontaminated prior to leaving the premises for laundering. Disposable gear, such as gloves, masks, head covers, coats, coveralls, and shoe covers should be used where appropriate. Hands should be routinely washed after handling animals or cage accessories to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Clothing should be changed as often as is necessary to maintain personal hygiene. Outer garments worn in animal rooms should not be worn outside the animal facility. Washing and showering facilities appropriate to the program are to be made available.

Provision of advice on specific procedures to be followed is the responsibility of the University Animal Care Officer in conjunction with the unit director or principal investigator.

Eating, drinking, smoking, or application of cosmetics in animal rooms is not permitted.

Education and Training

Persons working with animals or in animal facilities should be fully informed as to the nature of possible risks associated with proposed duties. It is the responsibility of each laboratory director to inform research personnel of the specific risks involved and the applicable safety procedures. The University Animal Care Officer is responsible for providing instruction in safe methods of animal care and use.

Training in the principles of radiation and chemical safety is the responsibility of the Environmental Safety Office.

The University Laboratory Safety Committee (ULSC) is mandated to develop protocols for research activities involving biohazards.

The University Animal Care Committee is responsible for verifying that those conducting research with animals are duly qualified.

The Occupational Health Program

The Occupational Health Program (OHP) for Animal Related Activities addresses the health risks which may result from working with animals, or working with animals in animal care activities. OHP is a prevention program related to occupational diseases, as well as diseases and incidents involving animals. Participation in OHP is mandatory for personnel in contact with Non Human Primates. It is voluntary for personnel in contact with other animal species. The OHP for animal related activities participation form can be found here.

For staff members, the Occupational Health Program provides all necessary vaccinations and medical surveillance through the Occupational Health Clinic. Yearly PPD testing clinics and medical support services in the event of an exposure are also provided. Appointments to see the nurse in the Occupational Health Clinic can be made by contacting the OHP Administrator at 514-398-4766.

For students, the Occupational Health Program provides medical support services in the event of an exposure, as well as yearly PPD testing clinics for Non-Human Primate users at the Occupational Health Clinic. Students participating in the program receive their vaccinations by contacting Student Health Services.

Medical Surveillance

This section is applicable to routine health surveillance activities involving animal care and use. Animal bites or other accidents involving animals are not covered here, for more information please see Reporting an Animal Related Exposure.

N.B. This table is presently undergoing review



Direct Contact

Indirect Contact

Non-Human Primates 1,2,4,5 1
Non-Domestic Mammals 1,2,3 1
Farm Mammals except Sheep 1,2 1
Sheep 1,2,6 1,6
Rodents and Rabbits 1,2 1
Carnivores 1,2,3 1
Domestic Birds 1,2 1
Non-Domestic Birds 1,2 1
Reptiles 1,2 1
Amphibians 1,2 1


  1. Pre-placement assessment: medical history questionnaire and (if clinically indicated), medical examination.
  2. Tetanus immunization (if not already up to date). Booster every ten years.
  3. Selective pre-placement rabies immunization. Repeated as required.
  4. Pre-placement PPD skin testing (2-step).
  5. Hepatitis A vaccination; booster at 1 year follow-up
  6. Q fever immunization - information and consent forms: Q-fever-OHS [.doc]


"Direct Contact" refers to those handling live animals, unpreserved tissues or body fluids, animal cages, cage accessories, animal waste or carcasses.

"Indirect Contact" refers to those who work in areas where animals are used or housed. These people are potentially exposed by means of accidental contact or aerosols.

Allergies... know more about it!

As much as 30% of people who handle animals develop allergies - don't be one of them! Check out the poster below, which may also be found in the animal facility where you work, or by contacting the animalcare [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Animal Resource Centre).


A poster about allergy safety when working with animals