rapid access to a knowledgeable infectious-disease physician. In a zoo setting, the primary concerns are animal bites and scratches, with injuries associated with cages or other objects, and the resulting risks of such infections as cercopithecine herpesvirus 1 (B-virus) from macaques, Q-fever, toxoplasmosis, tetanus, and rabies. Contact with venomous animals might require emergency access to antivenin. Medical surveillance, serum banking (not currently recommended as a standard component of an OHS program; NRC, 1997), immunizations, worker compensation, hearing conservation, and physical examinations (for example, for respiratory protection programs) are other subjects that should be addressed by a zoo’s occupational health program.
A zoo’s OHS program must also deal with animal-escape and animal-restraint issues, including policies, procedures, and exercises; therefore, OHS department personnel are often members of a facility’s institutional animal care and use committee.
Visitor safety is an issue that involves the NZP Police Department to a large degree and must be considered and evaluated during all facility modifications and exhibit changes.
The zoo safety program is administered by a safety officer and two safety committees that are responsible for safety support of about 450 employees (both the National Zoo and Friends of the National Zoo), the Center for Research and Conservation, and the public (personal communication, J. Hilton, August 28, 2003). The safety committees (one at the Rock Creek Park facility and one at the Front Royal facility) assist the safety officer in coordinating and administering the safety program. The current safety manager appears to be well qualified and knowledgeable regarding Smithsonian policies and procedures, OHS standards, and the principles of managing safety and health programs. He seems to have achieved credibility with employees and management. However, he is not supported by an administrative staff or safety technician.
Organizationally, the safety department appears to be positioned appropriately within the management structure as the safety officer reports to the assistant zoo director and attends weekly senior management staff meetings held by the zoo’s director. The Smithsonian Office of Environmental Safety and Health provides audit and oversight functions for the zoo’s safety program through periodic inspections of the zoo’s safety program and procedures. Given appropriate resources and senior management follow through to incorporate training on OHS into a comprehensive training program for animal care staff there is reason for optimism that a comprehensive and effective OHS program will be attained at the zoo.
Before the red panda deaths on January 11, 2003, responsibility for pest-control contracts and plans rested with the safety officer, who reported to the facilities department. After the deaths, responsibility for pest control was reassigned to the Department of Pathology. The safety officer currently is responsible for the administration of the safety programs at Rock Creek and Front Royal, safety training, and investigation of accidents. The members of the safety committees are responsible for communicating with the safety officer, holding safety discussions with workers in their area, and conducting routine inspections and training within their function unit. The safety program utilizes training videos and other information, including procedures for animal captures that are available for loan to the various units. Each safety committee has at least one representative from each organizational unit (NZP, General Memorandum No. 100, August 9, 2003).
A zoo-wide chemical approval procedure to ensure that all chemicals (including pesticides) are reviewed and approved prior to use was presented to all zoo staff on October 1, 2003 (NZP, General Memorandum No. 125, September, 24, 2003) and has now been fully implemented. In collaboration with the Facility Manager, a form was created that requires approval from multiple persons in order to authorize the application of chemicals anywhere in the zoo complex (NZP, Chemical Approval Form, September 24, 2003). In addition, a chemical inventory database now exists that identifies the location of an application, volume of the application, approval secured, location of a material safety data sheet (MSDS), and the purpose of the chemical (e.g., maintenance, horticulture, pesticide, laboratory, hospital, janitorial). The one component that should be included in the new chemical approval procedure is a purchasing policy requiring that all purchases of chemicals must be made by the Purchasing Department; currently any department can purchase any chemical. In this way the use of chemicals throughout the zoo can be monitored and potential problems with the inappropriate use of a chemical can be mitigated. In addition to chemical control, this policy would help ensure compliance with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200).