Occupational Dog Bite Safety

By: Mitzi Robinson, President/Founder, Bulli Ray Occupational Dog Bite Safety 
Presenter 2021 VPPPA Conference Nashville

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in the country, and nearly 40 percent of all households have at least one dog. Of course, the percentage of households with dogs is higher in suburban and rural areas than in cities, but the fact remains that dogs are nearly everywhere.
With dogs in homes across the country, we must acknowledge that dogs can pose a workplace hazard to field employees. Does OSHA consider dogs a workplace hazard for those who may have to enter a yard or premises where a dog is present?  

In OSHA-Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), Mandatory Safety and Health standard, it requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free of recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

We know dogs can pose a significant hazard, so the question is how to mitigate this risk and keep employees safe?

Statistical Review
It’s hard to determine the significance of the hazards posed by encountering dogs in the workplace, but reviewing statistics is helpful.

According to Bulli Ray, a leading provider of occupational dog bite safety training:

  • On a typical 500-household route, a meter reader, cable installer, delivery person or postal carrier will encounter 300 dogs, and a large portion of them will be aggressive. 
  • Dog bites are one of the fastest-growing litigation opportunities today –more than $1 billion in settlements are paid out each year. 
  • Medical expenses, workers’ compensation, legal costs, delivery curtailment, employee replacement and other costs associated with dog bite accidents are estimated to exceed $25 million annually for the U.S. Postal Service. The cost of employee pain and suffering cannot be measured.
  • Any dog bite is serious. Puncture wounds easily become infected, leading to permanent scars. Based on the depth of the wound, it can cause nerve damage and long-term loss of feeling or function.

Police officers and the Pit Bull
A police officer and his partner were called to a home for a domestic disturbanceThe officers arrive at the location and one officer proceeds to the home.

Instantly, a pit bull mix comes running out from under the home attacking himThe dog grabs his forearm and will not releaseThe officer was attacked on his gun side, which means he can’t reach his weaponHis partner runs up and puts the butt of his 9mm gun on the top of the dog’s skullHe fires his gun, thinking the dog will be killed or at least release his partnerThe dog does release the officer, however the bullet ricochets off the dog skull, hitting the officer in the heartHe is killed instantlyWounded, the dog runs back under the house.  The partner immediately calls for help!  He cannot believe what has just happened!  Police officers, not to mention most employees are not trained in dog bite safety.

Lessons Learned:  

  • As they approached the house, they did not practice their due diligence on dog presence and observations.
  • Dogs will bite the first thing that they come too! You always want to offer the dog to bit something other than yourself.
  • Site evaluation will provide information on what is around that can be used to put between you and attacking dog.
  • Overview and knowledge of dog breeds may have saved the officers lifeDogs bred for fighting or protection are known to have a thick frontal plate over the brainWhich gives them added protection when attacked.
  • The officer’s partner panicked, did not think of the consequences of his bullet ricocheting off the dog’s headThis is a very unfortunate situation which may have been avoided with additional training and education.

My goal is to help educate the VPPA members on how to safely and successfully navigate dog encounters. Tragically, too many employees are in the field with little or no knowledge of how to recognize a dangerous dog from a harmless one. I hear stories often from employees that don’t understand why they were attacked by a dog in which they have safely approached several times in the past. I can provide the tools to help defend and minimize canine risk exposure. Be Safe!!