This page provides guidance on health monitoring processes relevant to animal handling at UWA.
Pre-placement medical procedures
The UWA pre-placement medical procedure is to facilitate the gathering of information to identify:
- Whether or not a particular applicant is able to perform the inherent requirements of a position.
- Whether (albeit unable to perform the inherent requirements of a position), any adjustment and/or accommodation can reasonably be made to enable an applicant to perform those requirements.
- Applicants with a pre-existing medical condition, which condition might be exacerbated by their employment at the University.
- Applicants with a medical condition, which might cause an unacceptable increase in the risk of injury.
The pre-placement medical procedure is designed to better manage safety and health risks in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA).
Pre-placement medical procedures are as follows:
- All candidates are required to be advised of the inherent requirements of the position for which they are applying (eg provided a position description) and are also provided with a Laboratory Animal Allergen Information sheet.
- Shortlisted candidates must complete a pre-placement medical questionnaire. The completed questionnaire is handed to the Chair of the Selection Panel at or shortly after interview.
- The Panel identifies their preferred candidate, in accordance with the normal UWA recruitment practices.
- The Chair of the panel has the responsibility to match the information on the pre-placement medical questionnaire from the preferred candidate with their ability to perform the inherent requirements of the position.
- If the Chair has reason to be concerned that a preferred candidate may have difficulty performing the inherent requirements of the position, this must be documented in the “Recommendation for Selection Report” that is provided to the hiring manager.
- The hiring manager then determines whether further clarification or assessment is required. This decision is to be made in consultation with the UWA Safety, Health and Wellbeing Office who will arrange further assessment. The cost for these tests and assessments are to be met by the centre/work area.
- Medical advice on reasonable accommodations and adjustments must be sought. Any determination not to employ a preferred candidate on medical grounds must be based on objective medical evidence.
- Once a position is accepted by a candidate they are then required to complete the self-assessment questionnaire on commencement of their employment (depending on the nature of their role – see criteria for ongoing health monitoring below).
Security and confidentiality of information
The pre-placement medical questionnaires from the short listed candidates will remain with the Chair and not be disclosed to the panel. The personal medical information obtained is confidential information and is managed according to the Privacy Principles set out in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). The personal medical information is to be securely stored on the personal file with access restricted to nominated officers to the University (e.g. Safety, Health and Wellbeing).
Information contained in the statement is not to be made available to any other third party without the prior written consent of the candidate (or staff member to which the information pertains), or when the University is required to do so by a court or tribunal or under law including in the case of a disputed claim for worker’s compensation, when the information might be provided to our workers’ compensation insurer or WorkCover.
Responsibilities in relation to disclosure
All candidates are responsible for investigating and understanding the inherent requirements of the position that they are applying for. The employer is responsible for providing this information.
The candidate/employee may choose not to disclose a disability, in which case he/she must recognise that this may lead to the following:
- A missed opportunity to negotiate work related adjustments;
- If there is deterioration in their medical condition or existing disability it may be difficult to arrange work related adjustments quickly;
- If their disability or medical condition impacts on work it may be perceived as poor performance; and
- If the disability could reasonably be seen to cause a health and safety risk for other people in the workplace, failing to disclose that risk may constitute a breach of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations.
Where a candidate or employee has not disclosed a disability or medical condition, employers are not responsible for providing employment related adjustments. It is not the employer’s responsibility to justify why no employment related adjustments were provided during the period when the employee had not disclosed their disability or medical condition.
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Ongoing health monitoring
The requirement for health surveillance is a condition of employment as an animal worker. The University will have the right to require a medical assessment of any person who in the opinion of management is showing signs of asthma, allergy or any other significant medical problem which seems to be related to or significantly aggravated by the working environment. The health monitoring program will work on an opt-out basis where employees, who for medical or other reasons, do not wish to participate will be required to inform the University in writing of their preference not to participate.
The criteria for determining the level and frequency of monitoring required is outlined below:
This is appropriate for employees who may need to enter the animal areas very occasionally as visitors or to carry out maintenance or cleaning work. It will consist of a information provided at induction and an instruction to report any symptoms immediately via the incident reporting process
This is appropriate for researchers and students, and others who work directly but intermittently with animals for limited periods. It will consist of a self-assessment questionnaire to be done annually, and sent to the Safety, Health and Wellbeing Office and an instruction to report any symptoms immediately to their supervisor and via the incident reporting process.
This is appropriate for animal technicians and others with potentially high levels or frequent exposure to animal allergens. It is also appropriate for other people who regularly enter and work in the animal areas and/or have existing proven animal allergy. It will consist of a self assessment questionnaire, and if follow up testing is required this will be initiated by the Safety, Health and Wellbeing Office.
Animal Care Services roles included in this category are:
- Animal Technicians
- Technicians in Charge (TiC), Senior Technicians in Charge (STiC) and Coordinators
- Technicians who work in the rodent cage preparation and cleaning areas
- Veterinarian Officer who handles rodents regularly.
High risk health monitoring
Health monitoring for high risk roles will be completed on site during the employees’ hours of work and employees will be asked to complete a ‘Self-Assessment Questionnaire’.
Results will be sent to the Safety, Health and Wellbeing Office and stored on the Health Monitoring database which is private and confidential. Employees will be required to sign an Authority to Release Information form agreeing to the information obtained from the testing to be released to their Medical Practitioner and for UWA Safety, Health and Wellbeing to obtain relevant information as it pertains to their employment. Any recommendation from the General Practitioner or Specialist will be stored in the Health Monitoring database within the Safety, Health and Wellbeing Office.
Workers with suspected animal allergy
Animal allergy may be suspected as a result of the animal worker reporting symptoms, either spontaneously or at routine health surveillance. Animal allergy will be confirmed by the history, medical examination and investigations including blood (IgE) or skin tests as appropriate. Where asthma is suspected, the animal worker will be referred for specialist investigation and further testing as appropriate.
Classification of animal workers
In order to determine what action should be taken to manage workers found to have laboratory animal allergy, a classification system is used. This classification is used as a general guide and not as a prescriptive document to inform the decision about the level of protection needed and the types of work that can be made available for the affected worker. The level of protection indicated is the minimum to protect against animal allergy. Higher standards may sometimes be required to protect against the effects of the pharmaceutical or chemical agents being tested.
- No problems
- Atopic - no evidence of animal allergy
- Antibodies to laboratory animals - no symptoms
- Animal allergy - upper respiratory symptoms only
- Animal allergy - there is clear evidence of asthma linked to exposure to laboratory animals
Significant asthma is present and aggravated substantially at work but it is not due to allergens specific to the workplace.
Management of established cases
In all cases where symptoms are reported or suspected, the animal worker will be referred to the Safety, Health and Wellbeing Office for review. Subsequent action will be taken by workplace management after medical recommendations are received.
Medical recommendations may include:
- Further investigation to define the nature and severity of the person’s condition
- Increasing the frequency of medical surveillance to ensure the condition does not worsen and to ensure the condition is managed appropriately.
Workplace remedial action may include:
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- Limiting the exposure using the hierarchy of control risk reduction process. An occupational hygienist may need to be consulted for advice
- Options for controlling risk may include removing the worker from the area, reducing the amount of airborne allergen through engineering controls, modifying work practices, job or task rotation initiatives, and to review personal respiratory protection equipment to enhance comfort and practicability for the worker.
- Employees: Staff will be offered redeployment where there is evidence of an allergic reaction to laboratory animals or occupational asthma, and it is impossible to adequately control the risk in the workplace.
- Researchers and Students: The researcher/student will be advised of the risk to their health and the precautions necessary for their protection. The university will take advice about its liability and options if the researcher/student were to ignore the recommended course of action to protect their health and well-being or if it is impossible to adequately control the risk.