Trends in exposure of veterinarians to physical and chemical hazards and use of protection practices
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To determine whether exposure to physical and chemical occupational hazards and use of protective practices has changed in recent veterinary graduates, and to describe trends in exposure to occupational hazards and use of protective practices over time.
This paper reports on a retrospective cohort study of veterinarians who graduated from any of the four Australian veterinary schools between 1960 and 2000 and were currently in clinical practice. A self-completed postal questionnaire was used to collect personal details, professional history since graduation, and details of occupational hazards and protective practices used. The prevalence of occupational hazards and use of protective practices was examined by decade of graduation adjusting for gender, type of practice and number of hours worked.
After adjusting for other factors, recent graduates tended to take more X-rays than early graduates—graduates since 1990 were 2.59 times more likely to take more than seven X-rays a week compared with graduates before 1970. Recent graduates were also more likely to personally restrain animals during X-rays but were more likely to use X-ray protection. Of those who undertook surgery, recent graduates were more likely to use anaesthetic waste gas scavengers. Over time, veterinary jobs have become more likely to involve longer hours of surgery, but shorter periods of driving. The use of scavengers for waste anaesthetic gas has increased markedly over time from 3.8% of jobs commencing in the 1960s to over 70% for jobs commencing since 1997.
This survey is, to our knowledge, the first to examine trends in the occupational health and safety practices of veterinarians. We have shown that occupational health issues are still important in veterinary practice, with most veterinarians exposed to a number of physical and chemical hazards and many using inadequate protection.
KeywordsRadiation Occupation Veterinary medicine Anaesthetics
This study was funded by the Cancer Council of Western Australia and the University of Western Australia Research Grants. We would like to thank the alumni organisations of Queensland University, Murdoch University and the University of Sydney for providing lists of graduates, the Australian Veterinary Association, the New Zealand Veterinary Registration Board and the veterinary registration boards of the Australian States for their assistance. Lin Fritschi and Lesley Day are supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
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