Employers in every state in the U.S. are required to provide their employees a reasonably safe and healthy work environment. However, some industries are naturally more physically demanding – and subsequently more physically hazardous than others.
We and many other personal injury law firms have blogged frequently on injuries related to the construction field, as this industry often presents some of the most severe injuries. However, an underrepresented industry that comes with potential risks is veterinary medicine.
We’ve listed just some of the serious hazards that come with working in a veterinary practice as a veterinarian, a vet tech, or even a receptionist, and we’ve also outlined the steps these professionals should take after suffering an on-the-job accident involving an animal or medical equipment.
The most obvious types of injuries that veterinarians and vet techs may face would be injuries caused by animal patients. One study that analyzed workers’ compensation claims at veterinary practices from 2002 to 2004 indicated that about 90% of injuries were from bites.
53% of the bites were from cats, and 43% of the bites were from dogs. Cat scratch claims alone accounted for 4.4% of all workers’ compensation claims from veterinary practices.
Though most statistics collected by the study regarded small-animal veterinary medicine employees, large-animal practitioners have different risks. Injuries from kicks – all reported were from horses – represented only 0.3% of all claim injuries among veterinary professionals. However, the average loss from these injuries were nearly $9,900: a considerable amount more than the average $802 claim among small-animal injuries.
The study also determined which professionals were most often injured. Technicians and assistants reported the most on-the-job injuries, followed by veterinarians, receptionists, and kennel workers. The majority of injuries were experienced by employees who were not wearing protective gear while interacting with animals.
Medical equipment presents a noteworthy hazard within the medical field. Veterinary medicine is no exception.
Physical hazards around the veterinary office can include surgical lasers, x-ray equipment, and autoclaves; while chemical hazards among medical professionals can include anesthetic gases, surgical smoke, insecticides, or hazardous drugs.
Patients who recover from surgeries while under isoflurane or sevoflurane will give off these gases while breathing. Logically, larger animals will give off larger amounts. Exposure to these gases can have both short-term and long-term effects on veterinarians and technicians. Short-term effects may include a headache, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating; long-term effects may include reproductive problems, fetal abnormalities, and damage to internal organs.
Like many workplaces, veterinary employees face ergonomics-related hazards involving heavy or awkward lifting or awkward postures.
Heavy bags of dog food can certainly pose a threat if an employee doesn’t lift with the legs, but lifting animals can be considered an ergonomics-related hazard. Live animals may squirm and twist, negating a vet tech’s efforts at proper lifting techniques.
Work Comp Claims In Veterinary Offices
The most important step after being injured on the job in veterinary offices (or any workplace) is to report the injury to your employer or supervisor. In many states, injuries must be reported within a certain amount of time. Typically, the required time is on the day of, or within a few days of the accident.
Depending on the circumstances of the injury, this may not always be possible. For example, debilitating headaches caused by anesthetic gases may begin to present symptoms after an employee gets off of work. The important thing is to report the injury as soon as practical.
In many cases, your employer may try to persuade you to use your own health insurance to pay for your medical treatment rather than filing a claim. Remember, you are within your rights to tell them no.
The next step is to file a claim with the workers’ compensation court in your state. This is another means of putting your employer, the court, and the employer’s insurance company on a formal notice of your injury.
Contacting A St. Louis Workers Compensation Lawyer
When medical bills are particularly high, it could be prudent to contact a workers compensation lawyer to help you with your injury claim.
Initially, it sounds overdramatic to contact a lawyer to help you with your claim, but remember, you are not suing anybody. In fact, in most cases, you would not be legally allowed to sue your employer if you wanted to.
Instead, a worker’s compensation attorney can help you file your claim, and get your medical bills taken care of. In the case of veterinary medicine, you may want to hire an attorney who has experience in both worker’s compensation and animal bites. Learn more about Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers’s expertise in the field at SchultzMyers.com, or call us at 314.444.4444 for a free, no obligation consultation.