Veterinarians: Minimizing Occupational Hazards

Veterinarians Minimizing Occupational Hazards by Deborah Y. Strauss D.V.M.

As with any healthcare profession, veterinarians are prone to certain occupational hazards. Part of being an expert in the industry is taking control of your own personal safety. You won’t be useful to any animals if you’re injured yourself.

Coping with Unpredictable Animals

Animals who visit the vet are often scared and in pain. When animals feel threatened, their instinct is sometimes to protect themselves. When it’s just a bite or scratch from a smaller animal, like a cat or a rabbit, most vets consider this a routine part of the day. Personal protective equipment, proper vaccination and being aware of your surroundings are three ways to ensure minimal damage.

What’s more dangerous is when veterinary professionals are treating large animals. Bigger dogs are one example, but many vets (such as myself), also travel to farms and care for horses, cattle, etc. In addition to being sure that you never stand within kicking range of a large horse, it’s also important that vets are cautious of farm equipment.

Home Visits

That leads me to my second point. I visit farms fairly frequently, but I also visit homes to do euthanizations and other treatments. When traveling to unpredictable houses alone, it’s always important to remember your personal safety.

For example, make sure at least one person knows the addresses you’ll be visiting, along with the time you’ll be home. There is a very slim chance of anything going wrong, but you can never be too cautious.

During travel, motor vehicle safety is another part of the equation. Safe driving is a given, but you should also be sure that you do routine vehicle maintenance so you don’t break down on the side of the road. Something as simple as a flat tire could inconvenience both you and your clients.

Medical Equipment

Whether in the office or on the road, veterinary professionals may come in contact with hazardous drugs, needles, and harmful chemicals.

Wearing the proper safety equipment, such as gloves, masks, eyewear, etc., is the best way to stay protected.

Other Professionals

This topic goes beyond veterinarians and vet techs. Animal groomers, zoo and aquarium workers, animal shelter volunteers and animal trainers should all be conscious of the workplace hazards they could be exposed to, and ask about precautions they should be taking for the safety of themselves and other animals.