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Jul 2016

Canine Terror: How to avoid dog attacks while on the job.


aggressive dog behind fence

There are many, many occupations in the United States that require workers to be outside. Some workers may spend the entire day, or the majority of the day outside; such as landscapers, postal workers, and policemen. However, there are other workers who may only spend a few minutes at a time out of doors. Regardless, anytime employees are outside – especially in a residential area – they are at risk of being attacked by a canine. Salesmen, postal workers, landscapers, and visiting nurses alike; dogs are a real threat in their work environment.

How prevalent are dog attacks?

Dog bites are the most frequent, animal-related injury that occurs in the United States. Every year there are nearly 5 million dog bites across the nation. Among the millions of Americans bitten by dogs each year are over 3,000 postal workers.  Given that almost 50% of US households own a dog a postal worker, delivery man, or other outdoor worker will encounter many dogs on a typical day. There is a small percentage of these bites that result in death. Since 2005 there have been 360 Americans that have been killed in a dog attack. While this is a very small percentage of fatalities, dog attacks are still a viable threat. The number of dog bites in the United States translates to an occurrence of a bite every 75 seconds.

What are the costs of dog attacks?

Besides the obvious immediate physical damage to a human being, dog attacks can have other consequences. In addition to lacerations and gashes caused by the bite, an infection occurs in 1 of every 5 dog bite victims. An untreated infection can be fatal. Diseases can also be spread through a dog bite, such as Rabies, MRSA, and Tetanus.

In addition to the physical damage, dog bites cost quite a bit of money. In fact, the average amount of money spent on a hospital stay induced by a dog bite is over eighteen thousand dollars. The United States Postal service will spend around 25 million dollars every year on dog-bite related incidents. The costs of a dog bite include workers compensation, financial restitution, medical bills, and potential legal fees. Ultimately, a dog bite can be an expensive accident.

How can you deal with the threat?

Any company that has workers who frequent areas populated by dogs needs to take precautions. Whether your employees are walking door to door, mowing lawns, or delivering mail, they should be prepared to face an aggressive dog. Here are some ways to improve your employees’ safety.

  1. Training is crucial. Employees need to be trained on how to avoid situations where they expose themselves to attack, what to do during an attack, as well as the consequences of a dog bite (disease, scarring, etc.) There are a few key elements to remember in the event of an attack:
    1. Never turn your back and run. When confronted by an aggressive dog (or a dog you fear may turn aggressive) do not turn and run. The action of turning away and running could trigger a predatory instinct in the animal, and it could lead to a more dangerous situation.
    2. Intimidation is important. Make yourself big, talk loudly, and stand your ground.
    3. If you can, maneuver yourself so there is something between you and the dog. A tree, fire hydrant, mailbox, or other object can act as a shield.
    4. Proceed with caution. Awareness is important when identifying a potential hazard. Employees should always scan a yard or home for signs of a dog. Making noise when you enter a gated yard or closed area will make the dog aware of your presence. Employees should be thinking a step ahead and staying aware.
    5. Communicate with your employees, and encourage communication between employees. Any house that has a potentially dangerous dog should be known by every employee. Everyone should be aware of every threat. There should be no surprises.

Dogs will always be a part of the work environment for outdoor workers. The hazards presented by dogs will never be completely exterminated. However, they can be mitigated. Employers need to take dog bites seriously, and work to improve employee training, awareness, and communication. It only takes a few moments for tragedy and disaster to strike. Make sure your employees avoid putting themselves at risk, and are capable of handling themselves when disaster does strike.

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