Study examines work-related injuries among certified veterinary technicians

Inspired by the scarcity of research on work-related injuries among certified veterinary technicians (CVT), a group of researchers embarked on a mission to survey CVTs in Minnesota about their injury histories.

The study, published in the Aug. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, sent surveys to 1,427 CVTs and received responses from 1,052 people. The researchers' main objective was to investigate the frequency, consequences, and potential risk factors for work-related injuries among veterinary technicians certified in Minnesota.

Types of injuries and causes

According to survey results, there were 1,827 work-related injury events reported by respondents in the 12 months prior to survey completion. About 53 percent of respondents reported at least one injury event during that time period.

The survey asked CVTs about the activities they were engaged in when the injuries occurred, and respondents indicated that out of the 777 most severe injuries:

  • 54 percent occurred during animal restraint.
  • 20 percent happened during treatment.
  • 9 percent happened while CVTs were lifting animals or objects.

Researchers also inquired about the most common types of injuries suffered among the 777 most severe injuries, which included:

  • Bites (52 percent)
  • Cuts, lacerations, or scratches (31 percent)
  • Bruises or contusions (22 percent)

Factors contributing to increased injury risk

The study identified several factors that appeared to raise the risk of work-related injuries for the CVTs who responded to the survey. According to study authors, these risk factors included:

  • Age: CVTs who were younger than 26 years old were at a significantly higher risk than those older than 26.
  • Experience: CVTs having under six years of experience handling animals were more at risk than those with more experience.
  • Patient variety: Study authors reported that injury rates grew significantly with increasing numbers of different animal species handled and number of staff handling animals in the respondents' facilities.
  • Work hours: CVTs working 40 hours or more per week had a significantly greater risk of injury compared to CVTs who work under 40 hours per week.
  • Attitudes toward injury prevention: CVTs who believe more strongly in their ability to prevent injuries were less likely to be injured, the study indicated. People who believed work-related injuries could not be prevented, or those who believed that some but not all injuries could be prevented, were at higher risk for injuries. 

Injury incidents sometimes not reported

Of the 777 most severe injuries that respondents mentioned, 173 (22 percent) were not reported to a supervisor or management. Researchers dug deeper into this statistic to learn why these incidents went unreported. The answers given included:

  • The CVT considered the injury to be a minor incident (74 percent) or part of the job (15 percent).
  • CVTs said they were too busy during that time (8 percent).
  • It was unnecessary to report the injury (5 percent).
  • The injury resolved itself (5 percent).
  • The injury happened over time or the person was not immediately aware of it (4 percent).
  • The CVT considered it his or her own fault (3 percent).
  • The person was still able to work (3 percent).
  • No management was present (2 percent).
  • The CVT was the manager (2 percent).
  • The CVT was not aware of a system to report injuries (1 percent).

Building upon the study results

Although the study authors acknowledged that the findings might not be "generalizable to populations of CVTs in other states," they expressed optimism that further studies might eventually lead to reduced injury rates.

"This study serves as the foundation for future analytic studies that can identify specific risk factors for injuries and may serve as a basis for development of appropriate prevention and control efforts," researchers said. "Future studies might explore whether changes in the work-related factors have an impact on the risk of work-related injuries to CVTs over time."

Read the full study

To read the full study, visit the JAVMA website.