Snake bite in the Australian workplace

Posted by Pia Abrahams on


Most of us relate the incidence of snake bite to recreational activities like bushwalking, camping and summer holiday adventures

But snake bite is a daily workplace hazard for those Australians who work in rural and remote settings, industrial zones, parks and gardens, and even the transport sector.

Snake season begins when the warmer weather lures them out of hibernation and into our rural and often urban environments. This year, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology recorded the highest national mean temperature on record for November across the country, which has resulted in an early and emphatic start to snake season 2020-21.

Snakes are not naturally aggressive and do not look for confrontation. They seek quiet, sheltered hiding places from perceived predators such as humans, which inevitably ends in surprise for both creatures!

In these situations, it is critical to remain calm and stay at a safe distance while contacting a professional snake handler to safely remove the snake. Never attempt to catch or kill a snake – it may retaliate by biting in a bid for self-protection.

Reducing the risk of snake bite in the workplace

Snakes can hide in workplace machinery, open or infrequently used work vehicles, under rubbish and building materials, and in rockeries, wood piles and vegetation. At the height of snake season, snakes have been discovered in tool boxes, stored sports equipment, and in kitchens and offices on construction sites.

Australians who work outdoors are most at risk from snake bite. Farmers, horticulturalists, fruit pickers, gardeners, surveyors, construction workers, and infrastructure installation and maintenance crews need to be vigilant about carrying a Snake Bite First Aid Kit on their person or in their nearby vehicles at all times.

Workers around Australia can minimise the risk of snake bite in the workplace by:

- Reducing rubbish and scrap materials where snakes can shelter.
- Removing food scraps that attract rodents or frogs, which are preyed upon by snakes.

- Wearing protective gloves, gaiters and boots when working amongst thick vegetation and when moving stored materials and rubbish

- Being reminded of high-risk snake season periods in warm weather.

- Remaining alert and on the lookout for snakes in unexpected places.

Increased awareness of snakes in the workplace is the best protection against snake bite, and a Snake Bite First Aid Kit is the best protection against the potentially fatal consequences. At-risk workers should carry a Snake Bite First Aid Kit and a charged mobile phone when working in potentially hazardous situations at all times.

Spare a thought for working dogs around rural Australia, which herd livestock indiscriminately through grassy paddocks and sometimes cluttered stockyards. It’s estimated that up to 10,000 animals, mainly dogs and cats, are bitten by snakes annually. Recently a Victorian livestock contractor was quoted as having lost six working dogs to snake bite in the last four years. In the same news article, the contractor praised a small biotech company in Bairnsdale, Victoria, for developing and now producing a commercial antivenom to treat dogs and cats bitten by brown snakes and tiger snakes. If the antivenom can be turned into a protective vaccine for working animals on farms and rural workplaces around Australia, thousands of animals’ lives, and their owners’ time, money and heartache, will be saved. 

Without an antivenom, saving dogs and cats from snake bite is almost impossible. But humans stand a much better chance if they and their co-workers learn snake bite first aid and carry the simple but highly effective Snake Bite First Aid Kits and Bandages, in preparation for a real-life emergency.

Snake bite workplace first aid

As we emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns and into warm weather, there’s never been a better time to learn snake bite first aid, and to equip yourself and your employees with Snake Bite Bandages and Snake Bite First Aid Kits.

Given that Australia is home to some of the most venomous snakes in the world, learning snake bite first aid should be as normalised for every Australian as learning to swim.

Snake bite first aid using the Pressure Immobilisation Technique

1. Immediately call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance
2. Ensure the patient is lying down at total rest. Do not move or transport them.
3. Place a clean dressing, if available, over the bite and do not wash it.

4. Firmly bandage the limb starting at fingers or toes (leaving ends exposed) and continue as far up the limb as possible.
5. The bandage must be firm and tight so that you CANNOT easily slide a finger underneath
6. Mark the approximate bite area on top of the bandage with a pen or even dirt.
7. Splint or sling the limb with any firm, straight object, keeping it still and level with the rest of the body
8. DO NOT cut the bite area
9. DO NOT suck or clean the bite area
10. DO NOT attempt to catch or identify the snake
11. Observe patient’s vital signs closely and prepare for CPR until emergency medical help arrives.

Snake bite first aid for your smart phone

We highly recommend downloading Australian Bites and Stings, an excellent new app that every Australian should add to their smart phone before heading outdoors this summer.

Australian Bites and Stings delivers essential information – written, photographic and video - about Australia’s venomous snakes, spiders, aquatic creatures, jellyfish and other creepy crawlies like ticks, scorpions and insects.

Its comprehensive First Aid section gives clear instructions for Basic Life Support and CPR, Creature-Specific First Aid and the Pressure Immobilisation Technique, which is the Australian-standard first aid treatment for snake bite, funnel-web spider bite, blue-ringed octopus sting and cone shell sting.

Importantly, all the first aid information can be heard as an audio file, so that the rescuer can attend to the patient while listening to instructions. There are also recurring on-screen buttons to call Triple Zero (000) so the user doesn’t need to leave the app.

Australian standard Pressure Immobilisation Technique

The app recommends the Pressure Immobilisation Technique as the ideal first aid treatment for the venomous bites and stings mentioned above, because it delays the spread of venom to the body’s lymphatic system without affecting normal blood flow.

A firmly applied compression bandage along the full length of the affected limb, while keeping the patient calm and immobilised, will delay the movement of venom until emergency medical treatment and an antivenom is administered.

Snake Bite Bandage with Indicators is a 10cm-wide, premium heavyweight compression bandage with flexible graphic indicators to help a first aider deliver best practice snake bite first aid. The graphic indicators show the correct level of compression under the Pressure Immobilisation Technique by changing shape from rectangular to square when the bandage is stretched sufficiently. The bandage is 10.5 meters long when fully stretched, which is sufficient to bandage a large adult leg. 

Brenniston Snake Bite First Aid Kits and Snake Bite Bandage with Indicators

You will find the Snake Bite Bandage with Indicators in both of Brenniston’s Snake Bite First Aid Kits.

Brenniston offers two high-quality, equally effective Snake Bite First Aid Kits: the Brenniston Snake Bite First Aid Kit and the Brenniston Snake Bite Comprehensive First Aid Kit, which includes a shock blanket, gloves and a pen for marking the bite site.

Both kits follow Australian government health authoritiy recommendations for snake bite first aid. They come in an easy to find hi-vis orange pouch, small enough to keep inside a bigger workplace first aid kit, work vehicle glove box or work tool box. They can be worn on a belt or backpack for quick and easy access, and include step-by-step snake bite first aid instructions anyone can follow.

Like all Brenniston National Standard Workplace First Aid Kits, the contents are regulated and safeguarded by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

All Brenniston National Standard Workplace First Aid Kits are proudly designed and produced in Australia.

Don’t delay to equip yourself and your workers with a Brenniston Snake Bite First Aid Kit and a Snake Bite Bandage with Indicators, and to download the Australian Bites and Stings app this summer.

Update 24/12/20: the importance of snake bite first aid can't be under-estimated after a young girl is saved by her grandmother's basic first aid knowledge: