Toolbox Talks: Snakes in the Workplace

Wildlife can pose many dangers to outdoor workers, especially those involved with site development, land surveying, and project planning like us at Dawood. Snakes can be found in a variety of habitats including woodlands, plains, mountains, and swamps as well as both fresh and salt water.

Since snakes are cold-blooded, they must regulate their body temperature using their surroundings. According to the USDA, snakes cannot tolerate temperature extremes for long periods of time and hibernate in dens during winter. Periodically inactive during peak summer heat, snakes are most active in the morning while it is cooler, and often hunt during this time.

Know the Risks

Snakes inject venom from their fangs when they bite which can be fatal if not treated immediately. Although most U.S. snakes are nonvenomous, the most common venomous snakes include rattlesnakes, copperheads, coral snakes, and cottonmouths/water moccasins.

Snakes can also contribute to workplace incidents, even if they do not bite you. A worker could be startled by a snake and accidentally injure themselves or a coworker or damage property or the environment while attempting to get away from the snake.

Keys to Keep You Safe

Familiarize yourself with the snakes in the area you will be working before completing a jobsite safety inspection, so you know where to look and how to identify different species.

If you see a snake, leave it alone, and maintain a distance of at least six feet between you and the snake. Do not attempt to move it yourself or scare the snake to make it flee as this could lead to a snake bite. Only professionals should handle snakes.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is our last line of defense against hazards. PPE like snake gaiters or chaps are available for those working outdoors. Additional layers creates a barrier between the snake and your skin.