When working on sites with tall grass and heavy shrubs or brush, snakes can pose a major danger to unsuspecting workers in the field. Most bites occur during active-outdoor months between April and October.
The most common venomous snake found on work sites are rattlesnakes. Although rattlesnakes are not generally aggressive towards humans, they can strike when threatened or provoked. The most common areas that snake bites occur are the hands, feet, and ankles. Roughly 25% of bites are “dry” bites (no venom was injected), but these bites still require medical treatment (USFS 2012).
Use the following precautions when snakes are a potential hazard (USFS 2012):
- Wear over-the-ankle boots, thick socks, and long / loose-fitting pants.
- Stay on well-treaded paths whenever possible.
- Wear snake gaiters as extra protection.
- Avoid tall grass, weeds, leaf piles, and heavy underbrush.
- If you need to move rocks or wood, use gloves to roll them toward you.
- Avoid approaching any snake that cannot be positively identified as a potentially safe species.
- Avoid climbing on places where a snake may be hiding (e.g., rocks, crevices, heavy brush, piles of wood) and do not step or place hands where you cannot see (CDC 2018).
Remember these first-aid do’s and don’ts (USFS 2012):
- Don’t make incisions over the bite
- Don’t restrict blood flow by using a tourniquet
- Don’t ice the wound
- Don’t suck the poison from the wound with your mouth
- Do stay calm and call 911
- Wash the wound area gently with soap and water
- Immobilize and keep the bite area below the heart if possible
- Transport the injured party to the nearest medical facility immediately
United States Forest Service (USFS). 2012. Snake Safety.
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2018. Venomous Snakes.