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Physical Safety

Animal handling and restraint hazards

  • Improved livestock handling facility design and restraining facilities can decrease injuries in animals and workers.
  • Most bite, scratch, kick, and crush injuries from animals can be prevented by using appropriate restraint and following established procedures.
  • Significant injuries and medical emergencies may result if proper procedures are not followed or precautions are not taken.
  • Bite and scratch wounds should receive immediate medical evaluation and care due to risks of infection and rabies exposure.

  AVMA Dog bite prevention  

  AVMA, Journal of the AVMA: Zoonosis Update: Animal Bites  

  Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association<br /> Animal Handling and Restraint  

Veterinarins working with cow in restraint equipment.

Photo credit: USDA Agricultural Research Service/Peggy Greb

  Ohio State University Working Safely with Livestock  

  Ohio State University Cattle Handling and Working Facilities  

  Auburn University Livestock Safety Resources  

  National Agriculture Safety Database Resources Resources  

  Temple Grandin Livestock Behavior, Design of Facilities, and Humane Slaughter  

Ergonomic and musculoskeletal hazards

  • Strains, sprains, back injuries and other repetitive motion injuries may occur when lifting, restraining, and treating animals
  • Extensive computer use may have ergonomic risks

  AVMA Ergonomics Guidelines for Veterinary Practices  

  NIOSH Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders  

  OSHA Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders in Laboratories  

Eye hazards

Eye safety concerns include:

  • Penetration wounds from animals, tools, and equipment
  • Contamination with dust or other airborne contaminants

  NIOSH Eye Safety  

Heat stress

  NIOSH Heat stress  

  EPA Extreme Heat Events Guidebook  

Ionizing radiation

Risk of exposure during radiography increases with the:

  • physical restraint of animals
  • use of older or poorly maintained equipment
  • inadequate use of protective garments

  OSHA Ionizing radiation  

  AVMA Veterinary Facility Occupational Risks for Pregnant Workers  

Laser hazards

  OSHA Laser hazards  

  OSHA/Laser Institute of America (LIA) Laser Safety Information Bulletin  

  OSHA/LIA Alliance Resources  

  AVMA, JAVMA News: Scope of medical laser safety standard broadened  

  ANSI Z136.4-2010: American National Standard Recommended Practice for Laser Safety Measurements for Hazard Evaluation  

Motor vehicle hazards

Commuting between farms, facilities, and/or patients increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents.

  NIOSH Motor vehicle safety  

  CDC Motor vehicle safety  

Needlestick, scalpel and other sharps hazards

  CDC Sharps Safety for Healthcare Settings  

  OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens and Needlestick Prevention  

  OSHA Standards Interpretation: Application of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to Veterinary Clinics  

  Ontario Veterinary College Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses; Worms and Germs Blog: Needlestick Injury Information Sheet for Pet Owners  


Sources of noise above recommended levels in veterinary workplaces may include:

  • Barking dogs in kennels and other confined spaces
  • Swine when being handled
  • Loud machinery and equipment

  NIOSH Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention  

  OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure  

  OSHA Laboratory Safety - Noise  

  NIOSH Health hazard evaluation (HHE) report: HETA-2007-0068-3042, Noise exposures and hearing loss assessments among animal shelter workers, Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Algiers, Louisiana [PDF - 931 KB]  

  NIOSH HHE report: HETA-2006-0222-3037, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Cincinnati, Ohio [PDF - 846 KB]  

  NIOSH HHE report: HETA-2006-0212-3035, Kenton County Animal Shelter, Covington, Kentucky [PDF - 870 KB]  

  NIOSH HHE report: HETA-2006-0196-3036, Liberty Veterinary Hospital, Liberty Township, Ohio [PDF - 871 KB]  

  NIOSH HHE report: HETA-2004-0046-2950, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa [PDF - 1.2 MB]  

Outdoor physical hazards


  NIOSH Heat stress  


Respiratory hazards

  • Many types of organic and inorganic dust and other airborne contaminants are present in confined animals feeding operations and other animal facilities.
  • Dust is generated from feed, bedding, manure, and many other sources.
  • Dust can be an irritant or an allergen.
  • Chloramine compounds generated in settings such as poultry plants from interactions between chlorinated water and nitrogenous materials are respiratory irritants.
  • Cleaners and disinfectants similar to those used in veterinary settings have been associated with asthma in a variety of settings, including human healthcare (see   Chemical Safety   section).

  NIOSH Request for Assistance in Preventing Organic Toxic Dust Syndrome  
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-102 (1994)

North Carolina Swine Veterinary Group:   Occupational Hazards on Swine Farms  

King BS, Page EH, Mueller CA, Dollberg DD, Gomez KE, Warren AM [2006].   Eye and respiratory symptoms in poultry processing workers exposed to chlorine by-products  
Am J Ind Med 49(2):119-26

Arif AA, Delclos GL [2012].   Association between cleaning-related chemicals and work-related asthma and asthma symptoms among healthcare professionals  
Occup Environ Med 69(1):35-40

Slips, trips, and falls

Farms and animal facilities may have slippery or uneven surfaces which put workers at risk of injury from slipping, tripping, or falling.

  NIOSH Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention for Healthcare Workers  
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2011-123 (2010)

Waste disposal

  AVMA Waste Disposal by Veterinary Practices: What Goes Where?  

  National Center for Manufacturing Sciences Veterinary Compliance Assistance  

Contact Us:
  • Page last reviewed: July 23, 2012
  • Page last updated: August 28, 2012 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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