With many more people working outdoors in summer months, the odds of a surprise encounter with an animal, whether a dog, rattlesnake, bear, cougar (mountain lion) or wasp, increase considerably. As a supervisor, you are responsible for protecting the health and safety of your workers, which includes educating them on what to do during an animal encounter and providing them with protection against attacks.
Following are some tips to pass on to your workers:
Dealing with Aggressive Dogs:
If an aggressive dog approaches while a worker is inside a vehicle, the worker should stay in the vehicle until the owner appears and takes control of the animal. If the owner is not around, it’s not safe to leave the vehicle and attempt to perform a job such as reading a meter or making a delivery. Leave and contact the owner later.
If workers on foot encounter an aggressive dog, they should not approach it. If the animal approaches a worker, the worker should not scream or make eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly. Never run. If the animal attacks, try to put something, such as a jacket, chair or piece of equipment, between yourself and the animal and yell for help.
Dealing with a Bear:
Workers in bear country need to be trained on bear safety and the use of bear spray. Along with carrying bear spray, workers should be working in groups whenever possible and making plenty of noise by carrying a bell or talking. Many bears will leave the area if they hear noise.
Never run from a bear. It is much faster than you. Stand your ground and speak to the bear in a calm voice. Back away slowly in the direction you came from.
If an aggressive bear approaches you, use bear spray at a close range—13 feet (four meters) or less. The nozzle should be pointed directly at the bear’s face and not from a position where the wind could carry it into the worker’s face. The bear spray should be released from the container until the animal backs off.
Learn to recognize the difference between a black bear and a grizzly. If a black bear attacks you and you don’t have bear spray, fight back with everything you have. If you don’t have a stick or knife or rocks to throw at it, use your fists. There is some evidence that a punch to the bear’s nose may be effective. If a grizzly attacks, don’t fight back. Get into a fetal position, with your hands covering the back of your neck and play dead.
Dealing with a Cougar:
Try to travel in groups of two or more and make plenty of noise so that you don’t surprise a cougar.
Carry a sturdy stick that could be used as a weapon during an attack.
If you come upon a cougar, make sure it has an avenue of escape. Talk to it in a confident voice and try to back away slowly. Never turn your back on a cougar. Make yourself appear as large as possible. Place your hands above your head to increase your apparent height.
If the cougar attacks, fight back with rocks, sticks, a knife, hands or feet. Bear spray might work against a cougar, but unlike bears, cougars tend to attack from behind and can likely dodge a cloud of spray.
Avoiding Rattlesnakes and Other Venomous Snakes:
Stay away from tall grass, wood piles, rocks or piles of leaves where snakes could be lurking.
Wear boots and long pants when working outdoors.
Wear leather gloves if handling brush and debris.
Seek immediate medical attention if bitten.
Bees, wasps and other stinging insects:
Wear light-colored clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.
Don’t wear colognes or perfumes.
Stay away from flowering plants.
Don’t have open food around, as it will attract wasps.
If you are attacked, try to run to a shaded area.
If you have a history of allergic reactions to bee stings, you should be carrying an EpiPen (epinephrine auto injector) and wearing a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating your allergy.
Anyone having an allergic reaction to a bee sting, such as difficulty with breathing, hives, swelling of the face, mouth or throat, wheezing, rapid pulse or dizziness should go to a hospital without delay.