Pet Care Professional Safety: Who’s Taking Care of You?
By Khris Berry
Donna works as a groomer in a busy boarding kennel in a busy burg. She works with several other employees; groomers, trainers, daycare attendants and kennel attendants, and they all enjoy a vibrant workplace with happy clientele returning regularly.
Her workplace is like most—it has tubs, tables, gates, cages, dryers, grooming equipment and pets. There are electrical cords, plumbing fixtures, doors opening and closing, phones ringing, and clients coming and going. Her days are filled with barking dogs and bustling business concerns; such is the life of a pet care employee in a thriving pet service business.
Donna’s co–worker brought her new puppy to work recently—everyone enjoyed meeting and spending time with Peanut. Watching the little ball of fur playing around their workspaces filled the tedium of long hours. Peanut became comfortable following people around the kennel and found a cozy sleeping space at the foot of Donna’s grooming table. Days turned into a few weeks and everyone became accustomed to Peanut’s antics; greeting customers, jumping into piles of hair, puppy–napping in the afternoon at someone’s feet. Peanut became a staple at the boarding kennel.
One afternoon, Peanut awoke early from his nap and stepped into the path of Donna as she returned to her table. She saw him and swerved too late. Donna stepped on Peanut and, caught off balance, she fell to the floor as well. The aftermath was not pleasant. Peanut suffered a broken pelvis and so did Donna. While Peanut will survive—and so will the groomer—the collateral damage from the accident was felt by many. There were medical bills, both canine and human.
The unfortunate employee experienced loss of income, pain, and her co–workers experienced loss of much needed help to service customers. Her employer experienced an increase in workers’ compensation rates and the loss of income for her time off. Peanut meant no harm, and everyone enjoyed his presence, but if someone had assessed the risk he posed playing free in their workspace, the story could have had a much better outcome.
Pet professionals often become unaware of their surroundings over time. Likewise, they become less mindful of the hazards to themselves and pets that can occur in their everyday environment. Unfortunate but common injuries to both employees and pets can happen to even the most compassionate pet service professionals. Staying aware of your surroundings and learning to assess risks to yourself, your co-workers and the pets in your care is critical to preventing injuries.
We all know that accidents happen— particularly when dealing with animals. Learning to eliminate some of these accidents from your workplace will allow not only you, but your customers to enjoy a greater peace of mind when you are caring for their pets.
The easiest group of risks to assess and eliminate are avoidable injuries. Avoidable injuries include bites, cuts, scratches, shampoo or product related issues, drying mishaps, pets jumping from elevations such as tables, cages or tubs, stepping on or tripping over loose pets, or even an unaware attendant allowing unfamiliar dogs to greet one another, just to name a few. These injuries are generally avoidable because you can predict that they may happen based upon experience, animal knowledge and practicing basic safe handling policies.
Many pet professionals become good at practicing safety for their furry clients before they think of doing so for themselves. Workplace safety doesn’t just stop at minimizing bite risk—it’s much more comprehensive. Pet service employees need to learn to see danger, and not just in the snapping canines of a voracious terrier, but also in their everyday interactions with their equipment and workplace.
All pet service employees need to learn appropriate animal handling for anxious, temperamental or aggressive pets, how to properly move pets in and out of holding areas such as cages, kennels and exercise yards, and even how to properly walk pets on a leash to minimize falls and trauma.
Many employees have access to protection and prevention at their disposal, i.e. ear and eye protection, masks, muzzles, and many other aids to prevent injury or illness. What’s stopping you from using them?
In a culture where you are judged by the care you provide for pets, often times, the care provided for employees is overlooked. Creating awareness to common health risks of your chosen career will help educate not only yourself, but future co-workers as well. Basic employee health dialog begins with taking care of you, so you can take care of your clients. You can create a culture of self-care in your working environment by utilizing the tools you have available to protect yourself.
A career in pet services is chock full of inherent hazards—from your environment to your unpredictable clientele. As you learn to assess the risks around you and then employ good judgement, you will begin to practice better health and safety standards for yourself and your furry clients.
As animal caretakers, it’s natural to want to provide a safe and protective environment for our canine and feline guests. However, looking after your own safety is just as critical. Safeguarding against common industry health issues will allow you to serve the clients you love in an industry you are passionate about for many years to come.