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Exposure to Ergonomic Risk Factors to Veterinary Technicians at a Small Animal Clinic

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 29(1): 71-82. (doi: 10.13031/jash.15223) @2023
Authors:   Oscar Ernesto Arias, Joseph Anthony Proulx, Alvaro Taveira
Keywords:   Ergonomic risk factors, Musculoskeletal symptoms, Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA), Veterinary technicians, Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs).


Neck and shoulder discomfort found to be most prevalent in veterinary technicians.

REBA posture analysis identifies areas of significant risk and provides a benchmark for improvements.

Patient restraint and handling put veterinary technicians at significant risk for musculoskeletal disorders.

Continuous improvement through the implementation of engineering and administrative controls is mandatory.

Abstract. Research addressing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) among veterinary technicians is limited. Veterinary technicians are exposed to several activities that require lifting and the adoption of non-neutral postures associated with WMSDs. It is essential to design interventions aimed at reducing WMSDs in this population. The goal of this study was to identify typical, prevalent work tasks that pose high ergonomic risk factors to veterinary technicians, as well as to determine the WMSD risk associated with the work tasks identified in order to implement interventions. A small-animal veterinary clinic in central Wisconsin was contacted for this study. Nine veterinary technicians and assistants participated in assessing musculoskeletal symptoms and identifying tasks with ergonomic risk factors. The tasks with a high count of risk factors were evaluated using the Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA). All participants in this study experienced musculoskeletal discomfort in five or more body regions. They also reported being unable to perform work over the last 12 months due to WMSDs on shoulders, ankles, and feet (33%, n=3), neck and lower back (22%, n=2), and wrists, hands, hips, thighs, and knees 11% (n=1). One of the respondents reported no discomfort over the last seven days, while eight of them indicated discomfort in three or more body areas. Restraining and handling animals, sedation and recovery, and dental procedures were chosen for REBA analysis. Restraining and handling animals had a high-risk REBA score (ranging from 8 to 10). Sedation and recovery had a low to medium-risk REBA score (ranging from 3 to 5). Dental procedure recovery had a low to very high-risk REBA score (ranging from 2 to 11). Our findings suggest that most veterinary technicians come to work experiencing musculoskeletal discomfort and are exposed to significant WMSD risk levels when performing common tasks. This job assessment allows us to recommend administrative and engineering controls to reduce the risk of WMSDs associated with high-risk tasks.

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