Work Health & Safety (WHS)

There are inherent risks in working with animals and every effort must be made to minimise these. It is your duty to take reasonable care, not just for yourself, but also for staff, other students, and anyone else likely to be affected by your actions.
The following guidelines have been adapted from the Student Handbook for Clinical Extramural Study 2002, Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool.

  • When handling animals, always adopt the appropriate methods of approach and restraint.
  • Handle animals only when you have the permission of the individual responsible for them, except in cases of emergency when no senior person is available.
  • Undertake procedures with animals, equipment, drugs or chemicals only when you have permission or instruction, and understand what you are doing.
  • Wear clean protective clothing appropriate to the practice/establishment and to the procedure being undertaken.
  • Remove protective clothing as soon as the work is completed. Soiled protective clothing must not be worn in areas where others could be contaminated.
  • Exercise good personal hygiene at all times. Wash (or shower) when operations are complete. Avoid smoking, or consuming food or drink, while working with animals.
  • Wear appropriate protective equipment when working in a dusty environment, such as a poultry house. Take reasonable precautions or avoid such environments if you suffer from asthma.
  • Treat, or have treated, any cuts or abrasions, and ensure that these are properly covered before commencing work with animals.
  • Ensure that you are adequately vaccinated (e.g. tetanus, Q fever in Australia; seek medical advice for placements overseas).
  • In the event of being bitten or scratched, thoroughly clean the wound with hot, soapy water, and then seek medical advice as appropriate.
  • Report promptly to your supervisor any accident or injury; details may need to be entered in an Accident Book.
  • Report all accidents and injuries to the Faculty Office by completing an Injury and Incident Report Form available from the VVC. This form should be faxed to the Faculty Office within 48 hours of such accidents or injuries on Fax: (02) 9351 3056.

In addition, the process of handling animals, carrying out a necropsy on animal carcases, or collecting secretions and samples may lead to exposure to allergens, parasites, bacteria and viruses. Some of the associated infections may be transmissible to humans (zoonoses) especially Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis and Anthrax.

  • Examine animals for signs of disease, which may be transmissible to humans, e.g. ringworm, scabby mouth and diarrhoea.
  • Although all faeces are potentially hazardous, special precautions must be taken when handling animals with diarrhoea because of the risk of infection by Salmonella, Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium.
  • Wear adequate protective clothing when handling calves with ringworm or sheep with scabby mouth, and report any signs of skin irritation or inflammation immediately.
  • Dispose of animal carcases and spent equipment in the approved manner.
  • Women who may be pregnant, or those who suspect they are, must not work with lambing ewes or handle aborted foetuses, because of the risk of Chlamydia, Toxoplasma and other infections. They must not be involved in taking radiographs or the use of ionising radiation.
  • If you need to consult a doctor, make him/her aware of any recent exposure to animals and/or animal material.

To gain an understanding of WHS issues on farms students are required to read the Farm Safety & Safe Operating Procedures Booklet prior commencing any Extramural Placement. This handbook can be found on the First Year Vet Studies eCommunity site.

Students with permanent or temporary disabilities which prevent them from performing animal handling procedures, or which may risk further injury, should contact the Extramural Administration Unit before either engaging in extramural practical work or undertaking Skills Testing. Special provisions can be made.

The University of Sydney policies related to Work (occupational) Health and Safety are located at and you should familiarise yourself with these policies and guidelines, particularly in relation to reporting incidents and accidents. As these Units of Study involve visits to extramural properties and practices, you should familiarise yourself with:

  • Fieldwork Safety Guidelines
  • Clinical Fieldwork – Health and Safety Guidelines
  • Incident and Accident Reporting and Investigation

All incidents, no matter how minor they may initially appear, should be reported to the Faculty Office within 48 hours. You will be required to complete an Injury and Incident Report Form.

Work Health and Safety (WHS) Disclosure Policy

The aim of this policy is to ensure that students are able to safely achieve educational outcomes during the completion of course requirements. The Faculty is committed to Equal Opportunity in Education and accommodating students with disabilities. The University and our extramural partners have legal responsibilities to ensure the health, safety and welfare of students who are under our direction and supervision. We therefore require proper disclosure of relevant information by students in order to fulfill this duty. The expectation is that our students will co-operate and abide by University protocols established for their benefit. Non-disclosure of relevant information by a student may jeopardise insurance cover in the event of a related accident. Students are required to notify the Year Coordinator in writing as soon as practicable of the implications of any illness, disability or circumstances that may impact upon their capacity to safely fulfill inherent tasks or physical or cognitive demands found typically during the completion of units of study or which may impact upon the safety of others during completion of units of study. Examples may include injury, chronic illness, medication and pregnancy. If not sure, the student should seek advice from either the Associate Dean for Students or Student Services to discuss matters in confidence. For further details please view the Faculty’s Work Health and Safety Disclosure Policy provided in the Faculty Handbook or via the Faculty homepage.

Work Health and Safety Disclosure Form

Students are required to complete a Work Health and Safety Disclosure Form every year. This is done online. Log into the VVC and select the WHS Disclosure link on the My Details page.