Animal Research

UCSC requires that all faculty, staff, visiting researchers, and students who work directly with vertebrate animals, unfixed animal tissues or body fluids, and/or who work in animal housing areas, participate in the Occupational Health Surveillance System (OHSS). The OHSS provides a framework for assessing and controlling potential health risks for participants in animal research protocols.

Medical Surveillance Process

Use of Live Vertebrate Animal Subjects with Contact

All UC Santa Cruz personnel, including faculty, post-docs, staff, students (graduate and undergraduate), and volunteers, listed as working on an IACUC Use of Live Vertebrate Animal Subjects with Contact protocol, must complete the OHSS process for protocol approval. Non-UCSC personnel affiliated with other institutions or agencies shall be covered under their own organization's occupational health surveillance program and ARE NOT required to enroll in the UCSC OHSS.

Occupational Health Surveillance System

UCSC uses an on-line risk assessment and medical screening tool known as the "Occupational Health Surveillance System" (OHSS). This system greatly simplifies the former paper-based medical review process, eliminating the need to fax copies of forms to EH&S and the Health Center. Everyone with a CruzID Gold userid and password can use the OHSS system. Contact with questions or for assistance. 

Steps for Using OHSS

1. PI or Co-Researcher logs into OHSS and creates a Risk Assessment for the protocol (click on "create a new risk assessment").

2. Enter name of each participant (last name, first name) and click "add participant."

3. The participant reviews the Risk Assessment and accepts or rejects if changes are needed.

4. After accepting the Risk Assessment, the participant completes the confidential Health Questionnaire and submits for review by the Physician. Make sure to have your vaccination history available as vaccine dates are requested on the questionnaire.

5. The Physician reviews the participant's Risk Assessment and Health Questionnaire and sends the individual a Medical Assessment for review.

6. The participant logs into OHSS and reviews/acknowledges the Medical Assessment. If there are questions from the Physician, a response from the participant will be needed to complete the process. 

Email notifications are sent from OHSS after each step. If you don't receive your email, you may need to check your junk mail/spam folder.  

Risk Assessment

The Risk Assessment is completed by the PI/Co-Researcher and verified by the participant. The form contains a series of questions about the protocol and provides the Physician with information on potential risks within the work environment related to the protocol, such as:

  • Exposures
  • Animal Contact
  • Biological Agents
  • Chemical Agents
  • Physical Agents
  • Bloodborne Pathogens
  • General Safety Training

Health Questionnaire

The Health Questionnaire is completed by the participant and confidentially routed to a Physician. Participants should be prepared with vaccine information to streamline the process. The form provides the Physician with personal health information, including:

  • Vaccines
  • Tuberculosis
  • General Health History
  • Allergies
  • Prescription Medications
  • Health Status Changes

Your medical information is protected by law. PIs are not granted access to your Health Questionnaire or Medical Assessment.

Medical Assessment

The Medical Assessment is completed by the Physician and reviewed by the participant. The Medical Assessment provides the participant with evaluation information including:

  • If cleared for work
  • Needed follow up
  • Additional requirements:
    • Tuberculosis Screening
    • Hepatitis B Vaccine
    • Needed Immunizations or Tests
    • Consultation
    • Other

OHSS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Click here

Observation Only or Vertebrate Sample Protocols

Submission of an Observation of Non-Human Vertebrates – No Contact protocol or a Use of Vertebrate Samples protocol to the IACUC does not require completion of the OHSS process unless you are notified to do so by EH&S. Observation Only or Vertebrate Sample protocols will be reviewed by EH&S for health and safety concerns (biosafety, field safety, general safety, etc). If additional information is necessary or medical surveillance is deemed appropriate, EH&S will contact the PI directly to request details.

Questions related to the risk assessment process for Observation Only or Vertebrate Sample protocols should be directed to


Volunteers include individuals NOT listed on an IACUC protocol and who are NOT UCSC employees or students, however DO work with live, vertebrate animals. The Principal Investigator or Facility Manager will provide each individual with information pertinent to the species/protocol on which they are working and document that the information has been provided. The information provided will include, but is not limited to, the following: 

  • The availability of and the option to request medical evaluations through the OHSS system
  • Hand outs or the link to: General Information: Potential Hazards (zoonoses, allergies, and injuries) and Universal Precautions and Personal Hygiene
  • Other potential work-site health and safety hazards
  • The link to the UC Davis Hazard Analysis Tool
  • Advice to contact a personal health care provider prior to working with animals for persons who are pregnant, immunocompromised, diabetic, or have a history of allergies or other significant medical conditions.
  • Workplace exposures must be reported to UCSC Risk Services and EH&S

Exposure Incident Response

In the event of a serious accident, injury, or illness contact Campus Dispatch at 911.

Medical Incident

Bites and Scratches

CDC Rabies Post-exposure Guidelines

Fact Sheets & Links

Rabies Fact Sheets

CDC Recommendations - Human Rabies Prevention

CDC Rabies Vaccine - What You Need to Know

Rabies Information from the California Department of Public Health (many useful links)

Zoonotic Disease Information

The Center for Food Security and Public Health (Iowa State University)

Animal Disease Information

Information on Zoonotic Diseases - UCSB Office of Research

Zoonotic Diseases


Information on the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), including application forms and procedures: UCSC Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

For more information, contact the Campus Biosafety Officer at or (831) 459-2553.