Veterinary Services Safety and Health

Veterinary services are generally establishments of licensed practitioners primarily engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine, dentistry, or surgery, for animal specialties Animal specialties include horses, bees, fish, fur-bearing animals, rabbits, dogs, cats, and other pets and birds, except poultry. Establishments of licensed practitioners primarily engaged in veterinary medicine for cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, and poultry. 

Veterinary Services Safety and Health

Tab/Accordion Items

What are the hazards associated with veterinary services?

Physical hazards to veterinary workers include animal bites, animal attacks, injuries from lifting, struck by/against, slips, trips and falls, blocked exits 

Health hazards associated with work in veterinary services include infection by rabies, exposure to chemicals used as sterilants and disinfectants, as well as waste anesthetic gases and hazardous drugs (including cytotoxic drugs). In addition, employees can be potentially exposed to ionizing radiation from x-ray equipment. Direct contact with urine, feces and vomitus from animals may put workers at risk of infection from animal-borne diseases that are transmissible to humans. Furthermore, sound levels, especially at animal shelters, can easily exceed 100 decibels.  

Another health hazard that can be encountered by veterinary services personnel is exposure to phosphine gas when treating animals that have ingested zinc phosphide, a common component of rodenticides, or aluminum phosphide, a component in insecticides, from animal feeds that have not been properly treated.

Depending upon the type of equipment used, injuries to eyes from the use of laser equipment without adequately shaded eye protection can be either a physical hazard or a health hazard.


What can I do to protect myself and others?

Employees working in the veterinary services profession should ensure that they are properly equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment identified through a workplace hazard assessment when treating animals and other related work. Consult the safety data sheet prior to using chemicals such as, but not limited to, disinfectants and sterilants. Employees should be vaccinated for protection against rabies and other transmissible diseases. Used needles and other contaminated sharps should be handled as little as possible and promptly disposed into a sharps container to prevent infection with animal-borne diseases through percutaneous injuries, such as needlesticks. Injuries due to lifting can be minimized by using additional personnel or equipment when handling heavy or combative animals or heavy or awkward loads.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Training and Outreach Services

The hazard communication, personal protective equipment, noise exposure and walking and working surfaces presentations are among several related to veterinary hospitals that are available to assist employers in training their staff. Each of these presentations should be modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards. 

In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. 

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).

Safety and Health Programs

An example hazard communication programrespiratory protection program and hearing conservation program are available for employers to download and adapt to their specific conditions. A personal protective equipment hazard assessment can also help identify personal protective equipment needs at the worksite. 

A-Z Safety and Health Topics

More information related to veterinary services safety and health can be found on the A-Z topics pages for antineoplastic agents, hazard communication, personal protective equipment (PPE), noise and respiratory protection

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to veterinary hospitals in North Carolina.  Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

General Industry

State-specific Laws and Rules

Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

Where can I learn more?

Industry Guides

Technical Assistance

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to or by calling 919-707-7876.