Wildlife Safety Precautions in the Workplace: Steps for Protecting Outdoor Workers

  • Health & Safety
Elk in the wild
Frank O'Rourke Peninsula Canada

Frank O'Rourke, Vice President - Health & Safety

(Last updated )

With outdoor work increasing during the warmer months, so does the need for protecting outdoor workers from possible hazards, some of which include wild animals. Equipping your outdoor workers with the knowledge and tools necessary for any possible wild animal encounters is crucial for preventing injury or even death.

It is important to note that most wild animals will only attack if they feel threatened or agitated. Protecting your outdoor workers from animal attacks also includes smaller wild animals such as skunks and raccoons. Whether big or small, it’s important that you and your employees know how to avoid these attacks and what to do if confronted by a wild animal.

How can we protect ourselves from animals in the wild?

Different animals react differently to perceived threats, but there are some basic things you can do to avoid attracting wild animals to your worksite.

General safety procedures include:

  • Ensuring your workers are equipped with a cellphone or other two-way communication devices in case medical help is needed.
  • Avoiding direct contact with animal blood or waste.
  • Being aware of the worksite and surrounding areas and noting any suspicious or aggressive animals in the area. Instruct your outdoor workers to avoid these animals and contact relevant authorities instead.
  • Ensuring workers are retrofitted with repellant, CSA-approved safety boots, bug and insect spray, bear horn or spray.
  • Avoiding contact with even small wild animals, whether healthy, sick, or deceased, as they are sometimes carriers of infectious diseases or parasites.

Most wild animals will have tell-tale signs of feeling threatened or preparing for an attack. It is always good to understand these signs to further avoid potential attacks.  Some of these signs from more popular wild animals include the following:

Skunks – When angered, skunks will hiss or growl, rapidly stomp their feet, or walk a short distance on their front feet with their tails high. Before spraying, they will also hump their backs and turn in a U-shaped position, so their face and tail is directed at their enemy.

Raccoons – Their general reaction at the sight of humans is to stop and observe, as they are usually afraid of humans. However, if provoked, they will attack.

Elks – If a female elk feels threatened, she will stare directly at her enemy with flattened ears and raised hump hair. She may also curl lips, grind teeth, charge, kick or circle her enemy before attacking.

Bulk elks – will lower their antlers towards their enemy, trash bushes, or charge if they feel threatened or agitated.

Bears – Bears aren’t naturally confrontational, but they are curious animals. You should never approach or feed a bear, as they become very forward and occasionally aggressive if their curiosity is rewarded with food.

An aggressive bear will huff or snap and pop their teeth together. It may also face you and lower its head in as it prepares to charge.

What to do if approached by a wild animal?

The general rule is that you should avoid wild animals as much as possible. However, should your outdoor workers encounter an unavoidable situation, here are a few steps they could take to prevent a possible attack:

Skunks

  • Back away slowly and quietly
  • Contact skunk removal services

Raccoons

  • Avoid cornering it
  • Get away as quickly as possible, and contact professional raccoon control unit

Elks

  • Act dominant
  • Raise your arms to appear larger
  • Maintain eye contact and back away
  • Seek protection behind a larger object like a tree or vehicle
  • If you are knocked down, get up and back away
  • Never play dead

Bears

  • Never approach a bear
  • Never turn and run unless there’s a head-start between you and the bear and only a short distance to safety
  • Raise your arms to appear larger
  • Always face the bear and talk, roar, or growl in a low-pitched voice
  • Slowly back away until you can leave the area
  • If the bear is cornered, allow space for it to escape
  • Never play dead, run away, or turn your back on a bear

Encourage your workers to report any sightings of wild animals in or around the worksite so the relevant authorities can have them removed.

Do you need help creating health and safety policies for your outdoor workers?

Whether you need help developing a safety policy for outdoor staff or guidance on workplace regulations, our health and safety experts have you covered. We have a team of consultants available 24/7 via telephone to answer all your queries. We also offer smart health & safety software to make your daily tasks quick and convenient. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652.

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