Occupational Dog Bite Safety

By: Mitzi Robinson, President/Founder, Bulli Ray Occupational Dog Bite Safety 
Presenter 2021 VPPPA Conference Nashville

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in the country, and nearly 40 percent of all households have at least one dog. Of course, the percentage of households with dogs is higher in suburban and rural areas than in cities, but the fact remains that dogs are nearly everywhere.
With dogs in homes across the country, we must acknowledge that dogs can pose a workplace hazard to field employees. Does OSHA consider dogs a workplace hazard for those who may have to enter a yard or premises where a dog is present?  

In OSHA-Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), Mandatory Safety and Health standard, it requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free of recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

We know dogs can pose a significant hazard, so the question is how to mitigate this risk and keep employees safe?

Statistical Review
It’s hard to determine the significance of the hazards posed by encountering dogs in the workplace, but reviewing statistics is helpful.

According to Bulli Ray, a leading provider of occupational dog bite safety training:

  • On a typical 500-household route, a meter reader, cable installer, delivery person or postal carrier will encounter 300 dogs, and a large portion of them will be aggressive. 
  • Dog bites are one of the fastest-growing litigation opportunities today –more than $1 billion in settlements are paid out each year. 
  • Medical expenses, workers’ compensation, legal costs, delivery curtailment, employee replacement and other costs associated with dog bite accidents are estimated to exceed $25 million annually for the U.S. Postal Service. The cost of employee pain and suffering cannot be measured.
  • Any dog bite is serious. Puncture wounds easily become infected, leading to permanent scars. Based on the depth of the wound, it can cause nerve damage and long-term loss of feeling or function.

Police officers and the Pit Bull
A police officer and his partner were called to a home for a domestic disturbanceThe officers arrive at the location and one officer proceeds to the home.

Instantly, a pit bull mix comes running out from under the home attacking himThe dog grabs his forearm and will not releaseThe officer was attacked on his gun side, which means he can’t reach his weaponHis partner runs up and puts the butt of his 9mm gun on the top of the dog’s skullHe fires his gun, thinking the dog will be killed or at least release his partnerThe dog does release the officer, however the bullet ricochets off the dog skull, hitting the officer in the heartHe is killed instantlyWounded, the dog runs back under the house.  The partner immediately calls for help!  He cannot believe what has just happened!  Police officers, not to mention most employees are not trained in dog bite safety.

Lessons Learned:  

  • As they approached the house, they did not practice their due diligence on dog presence and observations.
  • Dogs will bite the first thing that they come too! You always want to offer the dog to bit something other than yourself.
  • Site evaluation will provide information on what is around that can be used to put between you and attacking dog.
  • Overview and knowledge of dog breeds may have saved the officers lifeDogs bred for fighting or protection are known to have a thick frontal plate over the brainWhich gives them added protection when attacked.
  • The officer’s partner panicked, did not think of the consequences of his bullet ricocheting off the dog’s headThis is a very unfortunate situation which may have been avoided with additional training and education.

My goal is to help educate the VPPA members on how to safely and successfully navigate dog encounters. Tragically, too many employees are in the field with little or no knowledge of how to recognize a dangerous dog from a harmless one. I hear stories often from employees that don’t understand why they were attacked by a dog in which they have safely approached several times in the past. I can provide the tools to help defend and minimize canine risk exposure. Be Safe!!

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.