August 8, 2008
August 8, 2008 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on Monday released the safety review of its Wildlife Services (WS) program. The review evaluates the current safety policy and procedures for WS and identifies improvements to ensure that the work environment is as safe as possible for employees.
"Employee safety is extremely important to APHIS and we sought this review to ensure our existing safety protocols were effective in protecting the welfare of our employees," said Cindy Smith, APHIS administrator.
APHIS initiated the review in June 2007 to ensure that its policies and procedures allow for the safest working environment for its employees who routinely conduct work with inherent risks. Although WS completed 12 separate safety reviews of individual programs during the last few years, this is the first comprehensive assessment of WS activities.
The review, conducted by outside subject-matter experts, looked at nine areas within the WS program, including aviation, explosives and pyrotechnics, firearms, hazardous materials, immobilization and euthanasia, pesticides, vehicles, watercraft and zoonotic diseases.
"I am pleased to say that the review found that WS' protocols overall are successful in this regard, and the program has already started to implement many of the review's recommendations to further improve the safety of our employees," continued Smith.
The review found that WS safety procedures are extremely effective in protecting the health of its employees, as well as the fact that the program has a successful safety record given the work performed by employees.
For example, reviewers noted that the WS explosives program "could serve as a model for other agencies or groups looking to improve their own program" and recommended only "relatively minor safety and security issues."
While talking with sheep producers in Washington, D.C., in May, Bill Clay, deputy administrator for WS, mentioned that the yearlong review was nearly complete and that the preliminary findings showed the department to be safe, effective and efficient.
"The final report will include recommendations designed to make an already safe program an even safer program," Clay said.
The complete report entitled Wildlife Services Program Safety Review: Evaluation of Current Safety Program and Identification of Safety Improvements is available at www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage