Researchers to conduct largest ever study on veterinary workplace injuries

A vet examining a calf with a stethoscope

A new University of Liverpool research projected funded by CVS is aiming to improve the safety of the veterinary profession by understanding more about workplace injuries and what can be done to prevent them.

The veterinary industry is considered a dangerous profession to work in. In the USA it is the fifth highest profession for non-fatal injuries, with equine veterinarians sustaining an average of eight serious injuries during their career. These injuries can significantly impact the health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals and are often preventable.

‘The context, consequence and prevention of veterinary workplace injuries: a qualitative and quantitative study in the UK’ is being undertaken at the University of Liverpool in collaboration with CVS colleagues as part of its Clinical Research Awards and will run for three years, supported by £74,400 of CVS funding.

The research will investigate what veterinary injuries are, what context they occur in and what their consequences are. It will look to highlight areas of the profession where injury prevention training and strategies can be developed and adopted to improve the safety of working in veterinary practice.

As a first stage, University of Liverpool researchers have recently rolled out the largest ever survey to explore veterinary workplace injuries with over 5,000 CVS staff UK-wide. The survey explore how veterinary professionals define injuries, their specific causal mechanisms, and why individuals do or do not report injuries or seek medical treatment. Following this an independent audit of CVS’ full accident reporting system ‘Safety Hub’ will occur. The results of these two activities will lead to the development of a suite of industry leading ‘open access’ educational tools aimed at promoting injury awareness and prevention to help drive behaviour change and support injury avoidance.

The research project is being led by Dr John Tulloch, a Research Fellow and European Specialist in Veterinary Public Health, at the University of Liverpool. His body of work focuses on how animals impact human health and society, including injuries to veterinary students, zoonotic infections, and dog-bite injuries. Collaborators will also include CVS Head of Health and Safety Rebecca Jackson and Director of Learning, Education and Development Dr Martin Whiting.

Dr Tulloch said: “Injuries that occur within veterinary practice can tragically at times be life-changing and are often avoidable. Currently we do not know some critical details that would help to improve safety within the veterinary workplace. If we can better understand these details, we will be able to develop and strengthen prevention measures through policy, education, and training. We anticipate that this project will result in safer workplaces within the wider veterinary community and, indirectly, in improved animal treatment through a fitter, healthier and safer profession.”

Dr Imogen Schofield, Veterinary Statistician and Epidemiologist at CVS, said: “To date, there has been a lack of funding on veterinary practice workplace injuries. Many funders may deem the profession too small or the problem too niche, and many have traditionally focused on animal health problems. So we’re very pleased to be facilitating this important project, as our awards mission is to fund both research that generates beneficial animal care knowledge and research that supports the profession. Safety in practice is of paramount importance, so the outcomes of this research will enable us to continue to commit to ensuring the highest levels of safety of our colleagues, and those working in the profession.”

CVS Clinical Research Awards were launched in January 2022 and are an industry first; offering funding for research undertaken by its employees and research undertaken by universities. The awards support clinical veterinary research which has a direct clinical benefit to animals and which will impact upon veterinary practice. ‘The context, consequence and prevention of veterinary workplace injuries: a qualitative and quantitative study in the UK’ is one of 16 projects CVS has funded since its awards were launched.