In the five months between June and December 2022 Australia Post reported almost 1,000 dog attacks on postal workers. A figure that shows more than 50% increase on the year prior.
Australia is home to approximately 5 million dogs and an estimated 48% of Australian households own at least one dog. It goes without saying that frontline delivery and postal workers are at significant, and increased, risk of dog bites and attacks on a daily basis.
“We’ve had posties sustain a range of injuries including puncture wounds, lacerations, scratches and bites,” the report states. “Sadly, team members have also suffered from long-term psychological impacts following an attack.”
As much as we’d like to think it’s the responsibility of the dog owner to manage negative animal behaviour, the reality is that even the most placid dog can be unpredictable and aggressive when threatened or fearful. Ensuring 5 million dogs aren’t in a position to harm a worker entering their property is an impossible task, which means the onus is on employers and business owners to ensure all workers are adequately equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to assess and manage animal behaviour and reduce the risk of dog bites and attacks.
Why dogs target posties
Dogs are deeply territorial and will protect both their property and their owners. The most common place for dog attacks is at the front gate, letterbox, footpath and front door, which are the most common places for postal workers to be situated.
The unpredictability of visits from a stranger, along with intense noises, the delivery of unfamiliar items and entry into their territory can make dogs feel threatened and/or scared which in turn can drive aggressive behaviour.
The cost of dog attacks on business
The risk associated with dog bites and attacks and subsequent costs to an organisation or business can be significant and far reaching. Many businesses report;
> The current protocol of avoiding or stopping entry onto any property occupied by a dog significantly reduces productivity and impacts customer service outcomes.
> Workplace stress reports increase and employee retention decreases in organisations where employees regularly encounter dogs but are unable to assess or adequately manage their personal safety.
> The impact on lost time injuries, workcover claims, and employee retention are significant and far reaching from employees who encounter a dog unexpectedly in the workplace, are ill equipped to respond and sustain significant trauma and/or injury as a result.
How dog bite prevention training can reduce risk for postal workers
I believe the solution to reducing risk in any workplace is education and skill development.
As nonverbal communicators dogs express themselves through body language and offer clear responses to an unfamiliar person entering or approaching a property, including;
I am friendly (generally safe)
I am unsure / worried (could escalate to unsafe or dissipate to safe)
I am aggressive (unsafe)
Just like a driver learns to read road signs, a delivery worker can learn to read a dog’s signs of worry or bite warning, significantly reducing their risk of injury or emotional trauma.
Teaching workers to read, assess, and appropriately react to common dog behaviours empowers them to make better choices and have safer experiences as they engage with customers and the community. Embracing an employees’ potential to understand dog body language better is an essential skill for the Australian workforce.
The benefits of such training extends beyond the reduced risk and liability associated with protecting businesses and employees by building trust with customers, contributing to responsible, reliable service delivery and shows care for the physical and psychological safety of frontline workers.
To find out more about how the Dog Bite Prevention Project can work with your organisation please contact our customer liaison team at email@example.com. We promise we don’t bite!