Veterinary Risk Assessment

  • Risk Assessment
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll discuss hazards within a veterinary practice, safety measures you can take, and how Peninsula can help you with your risk assessment.

Running a veterinary practice means protecting the wellbeing of your staff, visitors, and the animals you're treating. To do so, you are legally required to carry out a risk assessment of your workplace. But it must consider the risks animals in your workplace pose as well.

If a hazard isn't assessed correctly, it can have severe consequences for your business. For example, a member of staff or visitor could be injured and as a result, you could face legal, financial and reputational damages.

In this guide, we'll discuss hazards within a veterinary practice, safety measures you can take, and how Peninsula can help you with your risk assessment. We have years of experience providing Health & Safety support to veterinary practices of all sizes, contact us today and see how we can help you.

What is a veterinary risk assessment?

A veterinary risk assessment is the process vets follow to assess the risk of harm that hazards in their workplace present. This way, they have a full understanding of what's likely to cause injury to staff, visitors or animals, and ultimately, what protections they need to put in place.

Employment legislation requires every business to perform risk assessments. And, if a company employs five members of staff or more, the details of their findings must be noted down. 

What legislation do vets have to follow?

Vets have to follow workplace legislation, as well as laws relevant to their practice. They'll have to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) - which requires employers to provide a safe place for their staff to work. As well as this, they must follow UK Fire Safety Regulations where possible.

They'll also have to follow:

  • UK REACH: This is a regulation that applies to most chemicals and substances that are manufactured or imported into the UK. It highlights a list of duties employers have to mitigate the risk of substances hazardous to health. It is based on the original European Union legislation.
  • The Veterinary Surgeons Act (1966): This legislation specifies that only qualified surgeons registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) can practice veterinary medicine and surgery.

What are the risks of working with animals?

Several risks can occur when working in veterinary practices with animals. For example, their presence can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.

Let's explore some other risks below:

Physical injury

It's probably not surprising that working with animals can increase the risk of physical injury occurring. Whilst they might be well-trained, their behaviour can still be unexpected.

For example, if an animal is threatened by another in your surgery, it might become aggressive. Consequently, it could bite another individual or animal.


Another risk of working with animals is that it increases the chance of infection occurring. Like us, animals carry germs - and human exposure to such bacteria can be harmful.

For example, if an animal has ringworm and is left untreated, they could scratch a human and cause them to develop ringworm too.

Musculoskeletal issues

Animals can also increase the risk of your employees developing musculoskeletal issues. These are injuries or disorders that affect the muscles, tendons and joints of an individual.

For example, this can occur if your staff are lifting animals without support (or incorrectly) repetitively.

What are the different types of risk assessments used in a veterinary practice?

There are a range of risk assessments you could use to ensure all hazards are considered in relation to risk. All have different objectives, so ensure you're aware of each one so you know which one to use.

These include:

  • Veterinary medicines risk assessment: This risk assessment is the same as a COSHH assessment. Essentially, those undertaking one will evaluate the risk veterinary medicine and other hazardous substances pose in the workplace.
  • Qualitative risk assessment: A qualitative risk assessment uses subjective judgement or a specific risk question to review the probability of a risk occurring and its impact.
  • Quantitative risk assessment: This type assigns a numerical value to a risk. Based on the calculation, the assessor can then work out how harmful a hazard is - and what steps they should take to remove it.
  • Generic risk assessment: A generic risk assessment is a risk analysis that is not tailored to a specific site or premise. They help to highlight common hazards present in any workplace.

What happens if you don't do something about a hazard in your veterinary practice?

Failure to take action when identifying a hazard within your practice may lead to serious consequences. For example, if a risk assessment isn't carried out, you might fail to implement protective measures - such as PPE. As a result, infection spreads and causes harm to one of your staff members. 

This may also lead to compensation claims, as well as the Health and Safety Executive investigating your workplace. Consequently, you might face legal, financial and even reputational damage.

What is covered in a veterinary risk assessment ?

A veterinary risk assessment involves five main steps. You must perform each one thoroughly, to ensure you don't miss a hazard or fail to protect staff adequately.

The steps are:

  1. Identify hazards: The first step in any risk assessment is to identify the hazards in your practice. A hazard is anything that can potentially cause harm to anyone nearby. Most workplaces will share common hazards, but in a veterinary practice, you'll have other risks you'll need to be aware of.
  2. Assess the risk of harm: Once the hazards have been identified, ensure you assess the risk of them causing harm. Consider if the risk is increased for a particular person or people. For example, if they are nearer to the hazard than others, or if they have mobility issues.
  3. Implement control measures: Now you've assessed the risk of harm occurring in relation to identified hazards, you must implement control measures to reduce the risk of harm. For example, staff will need to wear PPE when substances hazardous to their health are being handled.
  4. Record findings: Next, you must record the findings of your risk assessment. These need to be written down if you employ five or more employees. Make sure you include the steps you're planning to take to reduce or remove levels of harm occurring.
  5. Review when necessary: Once you complete your risk assessment, you'll need to ensure you review it every so often. The Health and Safety Executive advises you to do this at least once a year.

The important thing to remember with risk assessments is that you should conduct one every time something changes in your workplace. For example, if you hire more staff, or implement a new service - you must assess the risk these changes create.

We've also developed our very own risk assessment template which is free for you to download. This can be found online via the link below.

How can Peninsula help with veterinary risk assessments?

It's your job to support animals, and it's our job to support you.

Our qualified Health & Safety experts will come to your practice and assess the hazards present. Afterwards, they'll give you results of your risk assessment, and offer guidance on how you can keep your business safe.

Plus, when you work with Peninsula, our employment law experts will produce all the documentation you need to maintain your legal compliance. Alternatively, if a problem arises unexpectedly - we provide expert advice 24/7, 365 days a year.

So, whether you need help assessing the risk of harm within your practice, creating and implementing workplace safety procedures, or simply need advice on your recruitment process - we can support you whatever the circumstances.

Want to find out more?

We take care of everything when you work with our Health & Safety experts. Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with a Health & Safety consultant today.

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