Guidance developed on shipping laboratory specimens

Published on April 15, 2010
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An Illinois veterinarian faced tens of thousands of dollars in possible fines as the result of an audit earlier this year of her practice's hazardous material shipping practices involving laboratory specimens.

Peter S. Weber, executive director of the Illinois State VMA, said the veterinarian was one of two in his state with whom he spoke following recent audits by the Federal Aviation Administration. Both told him they were directed to correct errors in shipping practices and provide required staff training to avoid substantial fines.

Following the audits, the AVMA developed and published a guide for veterinarians on proper packaging and shipping of laboratory specimens. The document provides an overview of the categories of hazardous materials, specific packaging requirements, and required training for such shipments.

Elizabeth Isham Cory, a spokeswoman for the FAA, said the agency's inspections of veterinary clinics that ship hazardous materials by air are not new and that she has had no indication such inspections have been increasing. She said these inspections are vital to the health of the traveling public.

Weber said the training requirements are not arduous, but many veterinarians may not know what training requirements exist for their staff.

"The issue is not one of unwillingness to be compliant," Weber said. "It's being aware of what we need to be compliant to.

"And I think the most important thing is that we're getting that information to veterinary practices so, one, they know what it takes to be compliant and, two, they know that there is current audit activity."

The guide also provides links to Department of Transportation guidance, training resources, and the AVMA Policy "Shipment of Diagnostic Specimens."

To read the guide, go here.