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VETERINARY SAFETY AND HEALTH

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 

 Animalhandling.org 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 

Noise

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 

 
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  • Page last reviewed: July 23, 2012
  • Page last updated: August 28, 2012
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