A study of occupational health and safety management in Irish veterinary practices
It is widely acknowledged within the literature that veterinary professionals are faced with a unique set of occupational health and safety risks. High levels of work-related infections, disease and injuries have been reported in Australia, the United States and more recently in the United Kingdom. However, to date no empirical research has been conducted into the management of occupational health and safety risks in an Irish context. The main aim of this study is to address the lack of Irish data on the management of occupational health and safety in veterinary practices - including but not limited to; where the majority of Irish veterinary practices currently source their occupational health and safety information and to critically assess how basic seven specific occupational health hazards are currently managed within Irish veterinary practices. An on-line questionnaire was distributed to a selection of Irish Veterinary practices using a systematic random sampling technique. In addition to this, four semi-structured, interviews were also conducted with a variety of veterinary professionals. A total of 56 practices (52%) responded of which 100% were eligible for inclusion in the study. Of these practices 50% were small-animal, 34% were mixed-animal, 9% were equine, 4% were large-animal and 4% were a combination of two or more of the aforementioned practice types. Ninety-eight per cent of responding practices had a written safety statement. However, only 79% had allocated a staff member responsible for health & safety within the practice and only 67% of practices stated that a staff member had completed some form of basic Health and safety training. Both psychosocial and manual handling health hazards appeared to be relatively overlooked by practices, with xii 77% of practice reporting having no policy in relation to occupational stress and 75% of interviewees reporting manual handling as an issue. This study concludes that Irish veterinary practices rely heavily on both the Health and Safety Authority’s Website and the professional body, Veterinary Ireland, for occupational health and safety information and advice. There also appears to be a lack of personnel competently trained in health and safety employed within Irish veterinary practices. The author concludes that this could be a contributing factor in the observed insufficiencies in the management of health and safety within Irish veterinary practices.
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