Occupational Safety

Staying Healthy

How to Stay Healthy in the Animal Facility

Wash your hands.

The most common way to contract a zoonotic infection is to place the infectious material directly in your own mouth. Always wash your hands after handling an animal or anything that the animal has touched. Never smoke, drink, or eat in the animal room, or before washing your hands.

Wear Protective Clothing.

Wear protective clothing when working with animals. For some workers, protective clothing will consist of a lab coat. For others it may be a dedicated set of work clothing. Protective clothing must be laundered either at the research facility or by a commercial laundry service. Never take protective clothing home with you. Protective clothing insures that you won't bring potentially contaminated material home with you.

Use Personal Protective Devices.

Some types of work require personal protective devices such as gloves, face shields, masks, respirators, etc. Always use the protective devices where required, and follow your supervisor's instructions scrupulously.

Seek Medical Attention Promptly.

If you are injured on the job, you must promptly report the accident to your supervisor, even if it seems relatively minor. You will then report to Workers' Compensation for guidelines for obtaining an evaluation of the injury.

Tell your physician you work with animals.

Whenever you're ill, even if you're not certain that the illness is work related, always mention to your physician that you work with animals. Many zoonotic diseases have flu-like symptoms, and your physician needs this information to make an accurate diagnosis.

If you have a health condition that might make you more susceptible to illness than an average worker . . .

You should make an appointment with an Occupational Health Physician to discuss your condition. Any discussion between you and the physician will be kept strictly in confidence. You should have a discussion with the physician if you are pregnant, if you suffer from allergies, if you are undergoing therapy for cancer or an immunologic illness, or if you suffer from a chronic infection of any type.

Get the facts.

All at-risk persons working in a facility should receive appropriate training on that facility's particular biohazards, precautions, and biohazard evaluation procedures. If there is something you don't understand, ask your supervisor. If your department would like to set up a session to discuss zoonotic diseases, contact one of the veterinarians in the Division of Comparative Medicine  CompMed@research.usf.edu. We'll be happy to conduct a class on zoonosis for any department that has a need.

The supervisor is responsible for teaching the workers what they need to know to perform their job safely and effectively.

Laboratory workers and animal care personnel should know how to recognize hazard warning signs, how to protect themselves and their coworkers against each recognized hazard, and how to react properly in the event of emergencies