In December 2022, a contractor was fatally injured when he was attacked by a number of dogs. Preliminary investigations found he was 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.
These findings are not yet confirmed, and investigations are continuing into the exact cause.
Ways to manage health and safety
Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, you'll need to show the regulator you’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
Use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in your 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. You must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.
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.
Other injuries to workers can occur from:
- tripping or falling over an animal
- being crushed, pinned, bitten or kicked by an animal
- being pushed over by the animal
- psychological trauma.
Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents
Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must first consider controls that most effectively eliminate the risk 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 – Before requiring a worker to enter a premises consider if the task can be eliminated or changed; for example: installing meters that transmit data rather than requiring the meter to be read by a worker.
- Isolation – Consider isolating the worker from entering the premises, for example: for package or mail deliverers leaving a mail delivery card that states where the package/mail can be collected.
If the risk remains, it must be further minimised by implementing administrative controls, for example the PCBU must ensure:
- A system of work is in place for the identification of premises where aggressive animals are located
- Appropriate training is given to the worker to:
- Identify premises where animals are located
- When 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
- Ensuring that their workers are trained not to enter the premises if it was not possible to confirm the animal was suitably restrained
- Development of an emergency plan for workers who come into contact with an aggressive animal.
Any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). Workers working in the animal control industry, for example, must wear appropriate PPE when handling the animal to ensure the safety of the worker accessing the premises. PPE can include:
- full body armour,
- safety glasses,
- face shields
- safety boots.
The control measures you put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.
Have you been affected by a workplace fatality, illness or serious injury?
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