Dog Bite Prevention Tips for Utility Workers
It’s no secret that dogs are one of the most popular types of pets. According to a 2015-2016 survey by the American Pet Products Association, about 54.4 million households in the United States own at least one dog. Most people who own dogs consider them to be a part of the family, so they don’t want to think that their beloved pets could ever hurt another person. But for utility workers, dog bites are a very real occupational hazard.
Given the amount of homes utility workers visit on any given day, the odds are very high that they’ll encounter multiple dogs along the way. Ideally, it’s best for utility companies to keep records to indicate which customers are known to have dogs and notify homeowners in advance that utility workers may need to enter their property on a certain day so that they can take steps to contain their dog. But over time, records about dog ownership might become inaccurate and depending on the situation, there might not be time to give customers advance notice, so it’s important that utility workers know how to protect themselves.
Since dog bites are such a common hazard for utility workers, utility companies should be providing their employees with safety training and protective equipment such as dog spray, dog batons, or pop-up dog barriers. Dog sprays are very portable and can help prevent attacks without harming the dog. Dog batons are also very easy to carry around and can give a dog something else to bite besides the worker. Pop-up barriers act very similarly to umbrellas and when opened while the dog is still a few feet away, can startle the dog enough to stop it from advancing. Even if a barrier doesn’t stop a dog from advancing, it can still provide an important level of protection between a worker and a dog.
If you’re a utility worker arriving at a customer’s property and don’t see anything in their record indicating that they own a dog, still keep an eye out for things that might suggest a dog is on the premises, such as a doghouse or bowls of food and water. Should you see any of these things, try to ask the customer about where the dog is being kept or ask them to contain the dog. A customer keeping their dog secured in the house while utility workers are on the property is the most effective way to prevent dog bites.
In the event that you see a dog on the property, but the owner isn’t at home, try to reschedule the appointment if possible. Remember that dogs of all breeds and sizes can potentially bite and should be approached with extreme caution. If rescheduling isn’t an option, don’t try to run or make any sudden movements — the fast motion will excite the dog and make it want to chase you. Try to get an idea of the dog’s temperament by looking at its body language. If it’s growling, looks tense, has its ears pulled back, or staring at you intensely, avoid making eye contact, leave and contact your supervisor.
If a dog calmly comes up to you, stand still and let it sniff you. In many cases, the dog will leave you alone once they’ve determined that you’re not a threat. But if a dog charges at you, try to use anything you have with you as a distraction, such as a clipboard, a jacket, an umbrella, a dog baton, or bag. Dogs that are about to bite or attack will often attack the first thing they come in contact with, even if it’s not actually part of the person they’re going after.
If you’re bitten by a dog while on the job, contact a dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. Since you were bitten in the course of your job, your case may a little different from most other dog bite cases. For example, you could be eligible for worker’s comp benefits in addition to being able to file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner. A lawyer will be able to help you figure out which legal options are available to you.