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Occup Med (Lond). 2009 Aug;59(5):316-22. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqn125. Epub 2008 Oct 28.

Management of occupational health risks in small-animal veterinary practices.

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The Health & Safety Executive, Priestley House, Priestley Road, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG24 9NW, UK.



Small-animal work is a major element of veterinary practice in the UK and may be hazardous, with high levels of work-related injuries and ill-health reported in Australia and USA. There are no studies addressing the management of occupational health risks arising from small-animal work in the UK.


To investigate the sources of health and safety information used and how health and safety and 12 specific occupational health risks are managed by practices.


A cross-sectional postal survey of all small-animal veterinary practices in Hampshire. A response was mandatory as this was a Health & Safety Executive (HSE) inspection activity.


A total of 118 (100%) practices responded of which 93 were eligible for inclusion. Of these, 99 and 86%, respectively, were aware of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) practice standards and had British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) staff members, while only 51% had previous contact with HSE (publications, advice and visit). Ninety per cent had health and safety policies, but only 31% had trained responsible staff in health and safety. Specific health hazards such as occupational allergens and computer use were relatively overlooked both by practices and the RCVS/BSAVA guidance available in 2002.


Failings in active health risk management systems could be due to a lack of training to ensure competence in those with responsibilities. Practices rely on guidance produced by their professional bodies. Current RCVS guidance, available since 2005, has remedied some previous omissions, but further improvements are recommended.

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[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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