Environmental Health and Safety


Initial or Change of Duty

  • The PI or supervisor identifies at-risk personnel, notifies EHS with the name and contact information of the individual(s), and directs at-risk employees, or those performing work in an 'employee-like' role, to fill out the Medical Survey Questionnaire. Note: PI's must complete this step as soon as possible after a protocol is submitted for approval so that there is sufficient time for vaccinations to take effect before work begins if applicable.
  • At-risk employees complete the Medical Survey Questionnaire and submit it to EHS.
  • EHS performs an initial work practice evaluation to determine if an individual needs medical services based on the information provided.
  • EHS medical staff arrange for any needed vaccinations, titers or other medical services
  • As needed, the Occupational Health Physician reviews the medical questionnaire and provides any needed medical evaluations.
  • EHS sends a list of people who have received medical surveillance services to the Office of Research Compliance.
  • EHS sends a list of people who have received pertinent training to the Office of Research Compliance.


  • At-risk employees provide an annual update to the Medical Survey Questionnaire OR completes a new questionnaire if there have been any exposure, species, or job duty changes.
  • EHS reviews the annual update information.
  • If changes have occurred, EHS reviews work practices to determine if additional medical services are needed.
  • Annual updates and any new questionnaires are forwarded to the Occupational Health Physician for review when determined necessary by EHS medical staff.
  • The Occupational Health Physician provides a written opinion to EHS documenting an individual's fitness for duty status.

Proper Work Practices

There are a number of work practices and personal hygiene issues that apply to all laboratories and all workers who are exposed to animals:

  • There must be no eating, drinking, smoking or application of cosmetics in areas where animals are used. Food must be stored in a separate refrigerator maintained for this purpose only and located outside of the area where animals are used or housed.
  • No animals may be kept overnight outside of the designated animal housing rooms.
  • Appropriate PPE must be worn at all times when handling animals.
  • All contaminated or infectious substances must be handled carefully in order to minimize the formation of aerosols or other type of exposure.
  • Laboratory coats or coveralls must be worn over street clothes when animals are handled. This will decrease the contamination of the street clothes. The laboratory clothes must be left in the laboratory and must not be worn while eating.
  • Additional specific precautions are necessary when handling biohazardous agents. Refer to the Virginia Tech Biosafety for Laboratory Workers manual for guidance on proper use of biohazardous agents in laboratories at Virginia Tech.
  • Mechanical pipeting must be used. Mouth pipeting is prohibited.
  • All work surfaces must be decontaminated daily and after any animal use.
  • Careful hand washing must be done after handling animals, after removing gloves or other PPE, and prior to leaving the laboratory for any reason. One of the most effective disease preventative methods available when treating any injury that breaks the skin is immediate and thorough washing of the injury with soap and warm water.
  • Contaminated materials which will not be decontaminated in the laboratory itself must be placed in containers that are both leak proof and durable before they are removed from the laboratory. Refer to the Biosafety for Laboratory Workers manual for more information.
  • Anyone using respiratory protection must be enrolled in the Respiratory Protection Program. Please contact EHS at 231-3998 if assistance is needed.
  • Anyone exposed to excessive noise levels must be enrolled in the Hearing Conservation Program. For assistance with determining noise levels or selecting appropriate hearing protectors, please contact EHSS at 231-5985.
  • Manipulation of heavy cages or other equipment, restraining or handling large animals, and work in slippery or wet areas should be done as carefully as possible using proper PPE and proper techniques to avoid injury.