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FAQs about Occupational Health, Protected Health Information, and Confidentiality

How do I enroll in the Occupational Health and Safety Program?

Click here to access the Document to Enroll in Occupational Health. Fill it out with “OHP Register” in the subject link, and email to iacucoffice@colorado.edu.

Our occupational health nurse will then email you a confidential, unique link to an online questionnaire, the Occupational Health Program Animal Exposure Questionnaire, which you should fill out promptly. The questionnaire is HIPAA compliant protected medical information, stored securely. Only the occupational health nurse is able to view your answers to the questionnaire.  After reviewing your questionnaire, she may contact you to discuss your risks from working with laboratory or field research animals.  She may contact you to discuss strategies to prevent or control laboratory animal allergies.  She may also contact you to discuss your international or domestic field work, mitigation of any risks that may be encountered in your field research, and the need for any immunizations or prophylactic medications for your trip.

To maintain enrollment initial enrollees must also update their health status by filling out an Annual Occupational Health Questionnaire. Failure to complete the initial or annual occupational health questionnaire removes a person from the Occupational Health Program and restricts the person’s access to research animals.

Who is required to participate in UCB’s Occupational Health Program?

All individuals at UCB who have exposure to research and/or teaching animals must participate.  This includes individuals who have animal exposure because they feed and handle animals, clean animal cages, are exposed to unfixed animal tissues, are exposed to animal wastes and/or bodily fluids. 

These individuals generally include:

  • Veterinary staff associated with UCB’s IACUC
  • Animal caretakers / technicians
  • Animal facility managers
  • Principal investigators on animal protocols
  • Graduate students, Undergraduate students, Post-doctoral fellows, visiting scientific personnel, other laboratory personnel who are listed on IACUC-approved protocols

It is the responsibility of the principal investigator, departments and facility managers to identify individuals who meet these criteria.

The Animal Occupational Health Surveillance Questionnaire (sample) ) must be filled out by all animal researchers and animal care staff at the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB) in order to enter animal research areas. Maintaining access to animal research areas also includes filling out the Annual Occupational Health Questionnaire on a yearly basis.  Participation in UCB’s Occupational Health Program is a requirement of Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and is required to maintain our university’s federal funding for animal research. Personnel will be notified via their UCB campus email address about how to access to this form. The link to this sample form is for information purposes only; do not fill out or submit this form.

The information on this questionnaire will be seen and reviewed only by occupational health personnel at Wardenburg Health Center.  No personal health information will be shared with principal investigators, supervisors, colleagues, departments.  De-identified aggregate health data will be compiled to evaluate common health risks and general health trends associated with working in animal facilities. 

When will I need to begin participating in UCB’s Occupational Health Program?

Wardenburg Health Center (WHC), in collaboration with the Office for the Vice Chancellor for Research, has developed an on-line questionnaire designed toaddress OLAWs requirements for Occupational Health on this campus. The Occupational Health Animal Exposure Questionnaire and the Annual Occupational Health Questionnaire are surveillance tools to assess the initial and ongoing health status of all participants who conduct and support animal research on this campus. This tool  helps us gauge your risks for animal-research related health conditions. All relevant faculty, staff and students will be notified to fill out this questionnaire.


During the initial deployment of the Animal Exosure Questionnaire in December 2012, no one was restricted from their research or animal care duties. Since its initial deployment, new individuals may be restricted from animal contact until they have completed the questionnaire and all other animal-research training requirements. New individuals can expect to wait up to a couple of days until their questionnaires have been reviewed.


After the initial questionnaires have been processed, individuals who continue to participate in animal research protocols or who are staff with continued animal exposure risks will need to fill out the shorter annual questionnaire geared to determining any health status changes due to repeated animal exposures.

Who will have access to the results of my Occupational Health surveillance form?

The Occupational Health Program at UCB is designed primarily to detect and prevent animal-related health hazards and injuries associated with animal research-related activities.  The requirements of the Occupational Health Program are based on the guidelines in the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.  The Occupational Health Nurse will have access to all surveillance forms.  On occasion this surveillance form will be available to certain health care providers.

Individual’s protected health information will be housed only at Wardenburg Health Center (WHC).  We have designed the surveillance form to be dissociated from any personal identifying information.  As will all health information, only WHC health care providers with a “need to know” will have access to an individual’s personal health information.  And Workman’s Compensation (WC) providers may also have access to an individual’s surveillance form if an individual seeking Workman’s Compensation care has an injury related to animal care and use.

Examples of when a WHC health care provider would need to know information about a student’s occupational health file:

  1. A student sustains a sharps injury because she was trying to adjust a microtome.  The microtome was also used by another researcher who was sectioning frozen sheep uteri.  The student is pregnant and comes to WHC because she is concerned about Q fever.  Her WHC health care provider will have access to her Occupational Health file.
  2. A student has a high fever, a ping-pong sized lymph node and presents at WHC.  He also has respiratory symptoms but they are not severe.  He states she collects fleas off of ill rodents at a field research site in Boulder County.  His WHC health care provider will have access to his Occupational Health file. 
Will the information from the questionnaire be added to my health record?

If an individual comes to the clinic to be seen for an animal-research related injury, their health care provider can have access to their hard copy records. Otherwise, there is no reason to include results of the questionnaire in a student's electronic medical records. There is no reason for health care providers to see the questionnaire unless the student is at WHC for an illness or injury compatible with their occupational health risks. Workman's Compensation (WC) providers may request the Occupational Health file from WHC if the records are pertinent to the individual's visit to the WC provider. There is no automatic transfer of the information provided by individuals to their personal medical record.

Can this information affect my eligibility for employment or my insurability?

The health data will only be accessible by the Occupational Health nurse and any health care provider that is seeing a patient for an animal-research related exposure, illness or injury at Wardenburg Health Center.  Patients following up with a workers compensation issues may request their Occupational Health Questionnaire be sent to them in order for them to take it with them to their designated medical provider for worker’s compensation.

If the patient has a reportable illness, portions of the patient's medical record must be reported to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE), per state law. The reporting system is secure and HIPAA compliant. Information regarding a reportable condition or illness never gets to insurance companies, PIs or supervisors via either the Occupational Health Program or CDPHE. However, it is important to note that individuals with reportable conditions become part of public health investigations. Every effort is made to protect the ill individual during the process of a public health investigation. If unable to maintain strict confidentiality, we do ask permission to disclose certain portions of their diagnosis by having the patient sign a release of information form.

The role of UCB's Occupational Health Program is to examine how a patient sustained an injury, caught an illness or became otherwise ill from their work with animals. Occupational Health's role is to prevent the injury, illness or condition from happening again to someone else. Occupational Health is a separate service from Workers Compensation.

Will you communicate illness/injury/exposure information to my PI?

The Occupational Health RN will initially talk directly to the patient about any work-related concerns. The OH RN will recommend PPE use, if applicable. The OH RN may suggest further evaluation by the patient's primary care provider. In rare circumstance,  the OH RN will restrict laboratory activities until a medical evaluation is completed. The health condition will never be communicated to the PI or supervisor. Recommendations for the individual may be communicated to the PI or supervisor.  (E.g., PPE recommendations for an individual will be communicated to a PI or their lab manager; diagnoses are not communicated.)

If a work-related illness, injury or exposure occurs, the affected individual is expected to report this to University Risk Management as well as to their supervisor and the Biosafety Officer.  Reporting automatically allows at least an initial visit to a designated worker’s compensation provider.

The role of the Occupational Health Program in animal research is mainly to provide preventative services and to direct patients to appropriate care, to look for concerning health trends.

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