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Does OSHA require rabies vaccinations for veterinary staff members?

There is no direct OSHA standard requiring the vaccination of veterinary workers against rabies. However, there are many more factors that must be considered when making this decision. For instance, OSHA's General Duty Clause does require employers to provide a workplace free from unnecessary dangers. In past situations involving other industries, when protection (such as vaccinations for hepatitis-B) was available and the risk was found to be greater than the average population (such as human healthcare workers), OSHA has required the employer to provide the protection at no charge to the employee or obtain the employee's written waiver of the vaccine. In any case, it is necessary to inform the worker of the exact nature and degree of risk, as well as the everyday safety methods to use.

Vaccination of all staff members is probably not the answer either. Unless the staff member has significant contact with animals that pose a risk, the hazards of any vaccination may outweigh the benefits. Receptionists and administrative staff members would not need the protection if restricted from contact with high risk animals. Groomers would normally not be at an increased risk because the animals they handle are normally healthy and properly vaccinated. The medical staff should be considered at risk if they examine, treat or care for stray, wild or feral animals. Designation of a “high risk team” to handle wild, feral or suspicious animals would mean only the members of the high risk team will need to be vaccinated.

Requiring a sufficient rabies antibody titer as a prerequisite of employment, would probably not pass an OSHA review. Since employers are required to provide the necessary safety equipment (and in the case of the human medical field, vaccinations for hepatitis) making the titer a condition of employment may be viewed the same as requiring the employee to furnish their own safety devices and would not be acceptable.


Did You Know...?

According to insurance statistics, animal-inflicted injuries such as bites, scratches and crushed toes are the most common type of physical injury to veterinary workers.