Faculty/Staff Occupational Health
Reproductive Hazards in the Workplace
Environmental Health & Safety (including Radiation Safety Office) have safeguards in place to help you protect your general health while you work at UC Berkeley. If you are planning to become pregnant or are pregnant, it is always important to review your work exposures and consider that there may be hazards to your reproductive health and the health of your unborn child in your workplace. Your supervisor, department Safety Coordinator or Principal Investigator (PI) can help to identify potential workplace hazards.
Most women are able to work during their pregnancy. Pregnant faculty and staff may obtain a confidential consultation with Occupational Health to discuss any concerns they may have. We will help you understand any health risks in your work area and the protections available to you. Occupational Health is also available to consult with your private OB/Gyn to discuss and explain these hazards allowing you to make informed decisions about working while pregnant.
- Laboratory exposures: EH&S has a fact sheet regarding Reproductive Hazards in the Laboratory.
- Radiation: EH&S has resources for women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, including a Declaration of Pregnancy form, written resources regarding radiation and pregnancy and availability for consultation.
- CDC: Resources on Pregnancy: Preventing Infections.
Immune Compromised Worker in the Research Setting
Persons who have compromised immune systems may be at increased risk for the development of infectious diseases. This is true in the workplace and may be the result of exposure during research activities, either while working directly with potential pathogens or working in the same laboratory space where infectious agents are studied (shared workspaces). This could include research staff, EH&S staff, facilities staff, as well as custodial staff.
The information provided here is intended for individuals who work, volunteer, or handle animals in research laboratories at UC Berkeley.
What does it mean to be immune compromised?
It is a medical condition in which the body's immune system’s ability to fight infectious disease is decreased or absent. It is also referred to as immune suppression or immunodeficiency. Immune compromised workers are at a higher risk of infection, and the side effects of infectious diseases can be more serious than those without a compomised immune system. The immune system is extremely complex, and there are many reasons why it may be compromised.
What conditions cause immune compromise?
There are many medical causes of immune compromise. In general, if you have a condition that causes problems with your immune system, your primary care clinician will have informed you. This list is not exhaustive, but some examples include:
- Infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Prolonged use of of corticosteroid medications (these drugs are given for the treatment of a variety of diseases including asthma, allergies, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis)
- Medications used by people who have had organ transplants Long term diabetes mellitis, liver or kidney disease.
- Monoclonal antibody therapy
- Cancer chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- Blood diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma
- Spleen removal
- Even pregnancy can cause some degree of immune compromise
If I am immune compromised, what infections am I at increased risk for?
Some infectious agents used or studied in the research setting may pose more of a risk of infection to persons with immune compromise than to healthy individuals. A few examples include:
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB)
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Streptococcus pneumonia
- Herpes viruses
- Leishmania Enteric infections such as camplobactor, salmonella, cryptosporidium
Some other agents do not normally infect persons with intact immune systems, but can cause infection in immunocompromised individuals. Some agents include:
- Mycobacterium marinum (found in fish tanks)
- M. avium (found in bats)
- Cryptosporidium (found in many animals in the research laboratory)
- Giardia (found in cats, dogs, and sheep)
- Salmonella (found in many different research animals, especially reptiles/rodents)
- Shigella and campylobacter (found in many mammalian research animals)
- Ectoparasites such as mites (found in many research animals including birds, rodents and other mammals)
- Bordetella species (dogs, cats, pigs and other mammals)
- Bartonella species (cats and cat fleas)
What vaccines are safe for immune compromised people?
Before receiving any live bacterial or viral vaccines, your personal physician/provider should be consulted since these medications may pose risks of severe side effects:
- MMR (mumps, measles and rubella)
- Yellow fever vaccine
- Varicella (chicken pox and shingles vaccines)
In general, other vaccines that do not contain live bacteria or viruses are safe, but may be less effective and supply less protection in the case of laboratory exposure:
- Hepatitis vaccines Inactivated polio vaccine
- Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine (Td or Tdap)
- In general, the tuberculin skin test is considered safe for individuals with immune compromise but may be less accurate than in a healthy individual.
If I am immune compromised, what can I do to reduce my risk of infection?
It is important to ask for help in evaluating your risks. The following resources are available:
Know your workplace: Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) and the UCB Committee on Laboratory and Environmental Biohazards (CLEB) conduct risk assessments of research projects and procedures to identify and minimize the potential risk of exposure to research-related hazards for all employees. In addition to identifying possible hazards in the workplace, EH&S can help evaluate engineering controls and safety practices to minimize your risk of exposure. In general, safety practices in the research setting are designed to minimize all personnel exposure to hazards.
Talk to your provider: A primary care physician/provider who is aware of your medical condition and has a list of infectious agents present at your workplace can help you make important decisions regarding whether you should ask for work place accommodation. In addition to discussing the infectious agents present in your workplace, discuss with the doctor your work activity, frequency and duration of contact with infectious agents, and the normal safety practices and equipment present in your workplace.
Consult with Occupational Health: Clinicians at OHC are available to discuss concerns with you or your primary provider. You may need medical restrictions or recommendations to minimize exposure. Call (510) 642-6891 to arrange for an appointment.
Contact UCB Disability Management Services: If job modifications or accommodations are needed to avoid possible workplace exposures, contact DSM for assistance at (510) 643-7921.
What else can I do to reduce my risk?
- Always use the recommended engineering controls (such as biosafety cabinets).
- Always wear the recommended personal protective equipment.
- Always wash your hands after contact with animals, potential hazards, and after taking off gloves.
- Ask for help in requesting accommodations in the workplace to avoid possible exposures.
What should I do if I have symptoms?
If you have any symptoms suggestive of infection from your workplace, you should seek medical evaluation as soon as possible:
If your condition requires emergency treatment, call 911, or go to the nearest Emergency Department for evaluation. The nearest emergency room to campus is Alta Bates Campus Emergency Department located at 2450 Ashby Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705. (510) 204-4444
Notify your supervisor and contact EH&S at (510) 642-3073 (off-hours call (510) 642-3333) to report an accident including a workplace injury or hazardous exposure.
Contact Occupational Health to schedule an appointment for evaluation and treatment at (510) 642-6891.
Where can I get more information?
For information about workplace hazards, contact EH&S:
- General Information - (510) 642-3073
- Biosafety Officer - Allison Liljedahl (510) 643-9366 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on respirators, contact EH&S:
- Safety Specialist - Roy Waller at (510) 926-0987 or email@example.com
For confidential medical assessment or treatment of suspected occupational injury or illness including suspected occupational infectious disease, contact:
- Occupational Health Clinic - (510) 642-6891 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For confidential counseling and accommodation assistance, contact:
- Disability Management Services - (510) 643-7921