Proper Restraint When Dealing With Animals and Employees

Loss Amount: $76,000

Situation: A veterinary technician was lifting a heavy dog onto a surgical table in preparation for an operation. The dog had not been sedated and was difficult to control. Unfortunately, there was nobody else in the room of this small hospital to assist him, and in the process of restraining the animal the employee felt a “pop” to his back. He got the dog under control and the surgery soon proceeded. Although in pain, the employee did not inform his employer of the incident at the time and instead sought the care of his personal physician. A week later he did inform his employer and subsequent testing revealed an injury to his spinal discs. It was also discovered that the employee had a history of back injuries with previous employers.

The employee initially followed a conservative treatment plan and was released to work with a lifting restriction of 30 pounds. The employer tried to adhere to this but the employee repeatedly violated the restriction, lifting heavier items in what he thought was “helping” his employer. Instead, he seriously exacerbated his injury to the point of needing back surgery and was subsequently deemed permanently disabled, with restrictions to his lifting ability and range of motion. Although he liked his job, the employee’s restrictions ultimately prevented him from returning to work and he left the veterinary field.

Lesson Learned: There are a number of things to be learned from this incident.

  • Always work to minimize lifting hazards. Heavy dogs (in this case reportedly weighing about 100 pounds) should always require more than one employee to handle. Having adequate staff to assist at all times is critical to this, and enforcement of such requirements by management is key. The use of proper sedation and lifting aids, such as a gurney, are also important.
  • Emphasize to employees the importance of reporting all accidents and injuries when they occur. Immediate diagnosis and treatment can prevent an injury or illness from worsening, and knowledge of a hazard may prevent injury or illness to other employees.
  • Use written job descriptions and pre-placement physical exams to help fit qualified candidates to positions in the organization.

For further assistance in preventing all types of losses, call VISC at 888.762.3143.