Severe Weather Safety in the Veterinary Hospital

The hazards posed to veterinary professionals are not limited to within the hospital walls. The safety of veterinary professionals can be at risk due to extreme temperatures, whether it's frigidly cold or unbearably hot. Severe weather conditions such as floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes also pose risks to the structure of veterinary hospitals, making it crucial to prepare for such events. In this article, we'll discuss the most common types of severe weather, how they impact veterinary practices, and recommendations to ensure the safety of yourself and your colleagues.

During winter, slippery ice and freezing temperatures can lead to injuries such as slips and falls, which is one of the most common reasons for veterinary professionals getting injured. Boots and winter wear can bring snow inside the hospital, and when it melts, it creates puddles on the floor that are often difficult to see.  Since most animals are trained not to defecate indoors, veterinary professionals are required to go out frequently in harsh winter conditions. Large animal patients can pull, tug, or cause veterinary professionals to lose their balance on the icy walkways. To prevent such accidents, it's helpful to have a large bucket or container of salt, sealed with a scoop inside, so any team member can salt the icy walkways when needed. Designating an area where snow can be stomped off of boots and coats can drip safely is critical in preventing these falls.

Furthermore, it is essential to ensure that heaters and furnaces are functioning appropriately well before winter arrives.

In fast-paced environments such as veterinary hospitals, overheating can occur easily. With many people working together to keep the hospital running, adding a few anxious animals can quickly raise the temperature. During summer months, when outside temperatures can reach over 100 degrees in most states, employees need support to stay cool. HVAC systems and air quality are crucial for a healthy summer environment, as directed by the General Duty Clause. Oftentimes, staying protected against other hazards within the hospital warrants layers on the body.  Lead-lined gowns, disposable surgical gowns and white doctor's coats can add to an already hot disposition. Ensure employees have opportunities to drink water in appropriate containers and take rest breaks when needed to avoid overexertion. Investing in an indoor thermometer can be helpful to ensure proper functioning of the air conditioning unit by comparing readings.

It's not just high temperatures that can negatively affect veterinary hospitals. Being prepared for extreme weather conditions such as floods, tornadoes and earthquakes can help save the lives of employees. To reinforce the safety of a hospital when anticipating a flood, resources such as sandbags, bottled water, backup generators, and extra blankets can be useful. During a training session, make sure that all staff members know where these emergency supplies are kept. Different types of storms can pose different dangers, such as tornadoes, so it's important to be prepared for all eventualities. Creating and practicing drills can help to boost the confidence of employees. It is important to ensure that all employees are aware of their role when it is necessary to take shelter within the hospital. This may include supporting the staff who are monitoring anesthetic procedures, assisting in securing dogs during playtime, and guiding clients to safety within the building. An earthquake is an example of a natural disaster that requires safety drills to ensure the well-being of everyone. Within the hospital, specific areas should be clearly designated as safe zones in case of an emergency. It is crucial to maintain fire alarms, smoke alarms, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, and inclement weather training to prepare for these unexpected severe conditions.

Lastly, if severe weather forces the hospital to close, only a minimal number of employees should be present to reduce travel risks. It is recommended that hospitals create an inclement weather policy tailored to their specific needs and teams as different regions experience varying weather conditions. This document outlines the expectations for employees and business operations during severe weather events and should be incorporated into the hospital's standard operating procedures. When traveling in severe weather conditions, employees should use their best judgment to ensure their safety. By providing awareness, training, and preventative measures, we can ensure the safety of our veterinary professionals in all types of weather conditions. If you're interested in learning more about helping your hospital become OSHA-compliant, please reach out to Certified Safety Training at for more information.


Sources and Citations:

link, Get, et al. Winter Risks for Veterinarians. 15 Nov. 2021, Accessed 12 Feb. 2024.

Team, Sling. “Creating an Inclement Weather Policy: A Step-By-Step Guide.” Sling, 10 Feb. 2020, Accessed 12 Feb. 2024.