Several years of Covid restrictions, along with our busy lifestyles have created a greater and ever-growing demand for home deliveries (even I myself have not been immune to the lure of having my weekly shopping delivered to my door!) and a dramatic increase in the provision of in-home services by NDIS support workers, charities and other service providers such as the RDNS and Meals-On-Wheels.
The flow-on of this is workers are entering residential settings in unprecedented numbers.
This means more people than ever before are entering properties and interacting with unknown dogs, which in turn has put more people at risk of serious dog bites and attacks than ever before.
Are Workplaces Providing Adequate Protection?
Every day we speak to workers entering properties with unknown dogs, with no training in how to read animal behaviour and no capacity to protect themselves from bites and attacks.
Dog attacks are extremely frightening, and many people report long term mental and physical trauma for many years after even the most minor attack. And yet every day workplaces are asking workers to enter properties with absolutely no training or skills in reading dog behaviour or body language.
Employers play a vital role in ensuring all their workers have the skills to remain safe in their workplaces, which includes providing them with essential knowledge around reading, assessing, and responding to any dogs they may encounter in the course of their duties.
Workplaces cannot ignore that dog bites and attacks have increased significantly in the past several years with 4,713 dog attacks and 1,593 serious injuries reported in NSW in 2021 alone (source).
In December 2022 an Energex contractor was fatally mauled by two dogs whilst going about his workplace duties. It is my belief that whilst workers remain untrained in even the most basic animal behaviour and handling techniques to protect them, more of these tragedies will continue to happen.
How Workplaces Can Address The Risk
The reality is dogs behaviour hasn’t changed, however the number of interactions dogs have with unknown people, as well as the nature of those interactions has vastly changed over the past few years with significantly more strangers accessing previously restricted areas around domestic properties.
Whilst dogs are our guardians, our companions and our workmates, the reality is that they are also fiercely territorial, unpredictable and potentially aggressive if they feel threatened or scared.
Even a dog who has shown no previous signs of aggression or fear can react quickly and unpredictably in circumstances that may be difficult to predict.
Like any mandatory workplace safety, a few simple techniques will ensure workers are significantly more confident and in control of assessing and reacting to a potentially threatening situation in a way that will keep them safe.