Safety alert issued after worker fatally attacked by dogs

Friday, 17 March, 2023

Safety alert issued after worker fatally attacked by dogs

In December 2022, a contractor was fatally injured when he was attacked by a number of dogs. He was reportedly attending a residential address to check an electricity meter; it appears that the dogs attacked after he opened the first gate and entered the property.

Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Employers are advised to use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in their place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. It’s a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks.

There are times when workers, including contractors, electrical meter readers, and package or mail deliverers will require access to residential or business premises where animals are present. Guard dogs are often kept on residential or business premises for security reasons. Although not all species are aggressive, animals are unpredictable and many are capable of causing injury to workers. Injuries can be severe and include traumatic lacerations or contusions, head and neck injuries, fractures or death. Injuries can also occur from tripping or falling over an animal; being crushed, pinned, bitten or kicked by an animal; being pushed over by the animal; and psychological trauma.

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must consider controls that most effectively eliminate or, where not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks associated with workers entering premises where there is an aggressive animal. Risk control measures can include substitution (considering if the task can be eliminated or changed, for example by installing meters that transmit data rather than requiring the meter to be read by a worker) and isolation (isolating the worker from entering the premises). If the risk remains, it must be further minimised by implementing administrative controls.

The PCBU must ensure that a system of work is in place for the identification of premises where aggressive animals are located. Workers must also receive appropriate training to identify premises where animals are located and where on site to assess the situation before entering. If the premises are identified as having aggressive animals, then the PCBU must ensure the premises has safe access and egress to and from the area the worker will be working.

A safe system of work can include prior communication with the owners of the premises where an animal is located, indicating the visit of the worker, along with ensuring that workers are trained not to enter the premises if it is not possible to confirm if the animal is suitably restrained. An emergency plan must also be developed for workers who come into contact with an aggressive animal. Any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as full body armour, safety glasses, gloves, face shields and safety boots.

The control measures put in place must be reviewed regularly to ensure that they work as planned.

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