Ergonomic Basics for Veterinary Clinics

Veterinary clinic employees are exposed to repetitive motion and lifting hazards every day, some resulting in serious injury. According to CVMA Insurance Services Program loss reports, from 2003 to 2008 there were 130 injuries from repetitive motion tasks. Lifting and material handling duties caused another 642 injuries. The number of incidents has been significant, as have related losses during this period: over $3.5 million in medical expenses. 

Understanding Ergonomic Risk Factors 

Recognizing risk factors in the workplace is the first step in reducing potential injuries. Four basic activities increase the likelihood of upper body and low back cumulative trauma injury: 

  1. Working in an awkward position such as standing with the body at a right angle to the floor while leaning over a low surface. Example: washing or grooming patients.

  2. Working in a stationary position with arms extended. Example: dental scaling procedures.

  3. Repetitive or narrow range of motion activities. Example: computer billing or data entry.

  4. Forceful exertions. Example: lifting heavy patients or supplies. 

Once identified, it’s easy to see how these everyday tasks can result in injury–from lower back strain to tendinitis in the arms, wrists, and hands. 

How to Reduce Risk Factors 

Alert employees to workplace hazards and provide training to help them avoid injuries. Examine the major tasks at your clinic, with focus on the following common risk factors: 

  • Patient lifting and handling

  • Medical and dental procedures

  • Computer workstation set-up

  • Handling large sacks of food and other supplies 

Here are a few suggestions to help avoid risk factors and prevent workplace injuries: 

  • Use adjustable tables and/or chairs. The adjustment should allow for the most comfortable sitting position that minimizes the bending of the back and extension of the arms and hands, and provides maximum back support.

  • Rest, stretch, or change positions frequently during medical/dental procedures and computer work. This will help reduce the stress of remaining in the same position for long periods.

  • Vary your work to avoid uninterrupted repetition. Schedule other tasks between procedures.

  • Arrange the storage of food and heavy supplies to reduce the need to lift or stretch. Place heavy items in middle shelves, and use a handcart to move supplies around the office or clinic. Get help to lift heavy or combative patients. 

For Further Assistance in the Prevention of all Types of Losses: 

  • Call VISC at 888.762.3143

  • Call the Fireman's Fund toll-free Loss Control Help Desk at 888.527.6872. 

Source: members’ edge, November 20, 2008



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