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  September 30, 2002

New Program Provides Health
Advice to Animal Care Workers

The Department of Environmental Health and Safety this fall began a new occupational health program designed to keep animal care workers safe and healthy.

The Occupational Health and Safety Program for Animal Handlers provides training for up to 300 faculty, staff and student animal care workers about safe work practices, laboratory of facility control and equipment available to protect them from various hazards they might encounter in the lab. It also provides workers with immunizations and if necessary, a physical examination.

"This program is a real benefit to faculty, staff and students who work with animals," said Leslie Delpin, manager, biological health and safety." Our job is to make sure our workers are safe."

The program, funded by the central administration, is open to all faculty, staff and student employees who handle animals as part of their jobs. Students who work with animals as part of their research but are not employees of the University are encouraged to get vaccinated as well, but the program will not cover their health costs.

Vaccines required can include both rabies and tetanus shots. "There are many hazards involved in animal research and animals can be naturally infected with organisms that can be harmful to humans," said Delpin.

In addition, the program will provide a physical exam to those employees who need one. Exams are necessary for new employees, for workers who need certification to wear a respirator, or in the event that health problems arise.

Marcia Trape, a physician who is the clinical director of the UConn Health Center's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, provides medical consultations for the employees. Vaccinations and other treatment are available in Storrs at Health Services.

"Our job is to make sure that employees are safe, whether that means helping them obtain proper equipment or safety items, or getting vaccinated or examined," said Delpin.

Bill Field, who joined the University last spring, coordinates the program. A graduate of the animal sciences program, he formerly worked with a United States Department of Agriculture-licensed production and research facility. Field will be providing monthly training on biosafety considerations in animal research and will be auditing animal facilities from a biosafety standpoint.

A schedule of training programs and information about the Occupational Health and Safety Program for Animal handlers and forms necessary to participate in the program are available on line at\boil.html

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