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Hazardous chemicals in veterinary services

Explore the hazardous chemicals being used while at work or that can be produced in the workplace.
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A hazardous substance is a substance that has the potential to harm the health or safety of people while being used at work.

This category also includes substances that can be produced in the workplace.

A list of substances is provided by Worksafe NSW, in ‘Lists of Designated Hazardous Substances’. The ‘Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances’ policy is available from the Australian Government Publishing Service, for non-listed substances and mixtures.

The policy main objectives:

  • Ensure that the register and the inventory of all chemicals used in the veterinary clinic are correctly maintained
  • Provide control mechanisms to minimise exposure to chemicals
  • Ensure chemical waste is disposed of in compliance with legislative requirements
  • Ensure that staff are familiar with emergency practices
  • Minimise the risk of adverse health and safety effects from exposure to chemicals in the workplace to the staff and the general public
  • Ensure chemicals used at work are provided with safety data sheets
  • Ensure to provide information and training to all staff who are exposed to a chemical
  • Ensure the workplace complies with the legislative requirements for the storage of chemicals

There are many dangerous substances that must be used in veterinary practice or facilities that keep animals, medications, anaesthetics, chemicals, cleaning products, and solvents. Injuries caused through accidental exposure to dangerous substances include toxicity of specific organs of the body, chemical burns, eye injuries, respiratory problems, and skin conditions such as contact dermatitis by the materials.

Long-term exposures can, sometimes, lead to the development of cancers. Many substances are now known to be carcinogens or cancer-producing substances. An employer must be confident that dangerous substances are used according to the manufacturer in written instructions (in the form of a safety data sheet, or SDS) as well as in the safe working procedures in place.

Dangerous substances must be stored securely and labelled clearly. A number of the materials used in veterinary practice must be kept in locked storage and accessed only by veterinary practitioners.

Employers must make sure employees are adequately trained to understand the nature of the dangerous substances present in the workplace, and to follow the protocols established for their handling and correctly keep them.

Drugs used for animal treatments will be limited to trained veterinary staff; however, staff may be required to handle solvents, disinfectants, and cleaning products to perform routine tasks. These are classed as hazardous substances, and gloves and other PPE will need to be worn to carry out cleaning tasks.

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Health and Safety in Veterinary Services

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