Serpent safety

Serpent safety

Having snakes on site can prove to be a major problem, potentially endangering the lives of staff and causing losses in production time. Ashley Kemp, manager of the African Snakebite Institute, highlights what to do during snake encounters and how to minimise snakes on site.

Africa has just under 600 different types of snakes, and although a large percentage of them are considered harmless or mildly venomous, there are several species with potentially deadly venom. Snakebites in Africa can also be extremely expensive to treat, with bills running anywhere from R100 000 to over R1 million.

This risk can largely be mitigated, however, with proper training and awareness. With the correct training and protocols, the removal of a snake from a site should be safe for both the animal and the remover. Having certified snake handlers on site may also reduce potential legal ramifications.

Snake removal should always be conducted with the appropriate snake handling equipment, such as snake tongs, snake hooks, and some form of approved container. To reduce the risks of a snakebite, physical contact with snakes should be avoided at all costs. The use of snake gaiters, to protect the legs, and protective eyewear – such as safety goggles or a face shield – is also advised, as some snakes spit their venom.

So what should you do during a snake encounter?

  • If a snake is seen on site, immediately move away to a safe distance of at least five metres. Keep calm and watch the snake, as it may disappear quickly.
  • Notify management or a supervisor about the presence of the snake, and keep watching it until a snake remover arrives.
  • The snake remover must be certified and have the correct snake handling equipment. The snake must be captured and containerised in a manner that is safe for both the reptile and the remover. At no stage should there be any physical contact with any snake.
  • The snake must be removed immediately and released in a suitable habitat away from people.

Snakes are largely attracted to sites when seeking food, water, or shelter. To minimise the number of snakes on site you need to address various attractants:

  • Keep the site clean. Snakes will seek out prey animals like rodents and frogs that are attracted by refuse, rubble, water puddles, and food.
  • Remove piles of unused rubble, wood, corrugated iron, asbestos sheeting, and other debris.
  • Raise containers and large equipment off the ground on concrete blocks or bricks to minimise tight, dark hiding spots below.
  • Remove dense vegetation around buildings, including long grass and bushes or hedges growing close to windows.
  • Make sure doors to offices and accommodation units seal fully so that snakes cannot enter under doors.

With the correct training and equipment, removing snakes from a site is largely a straightforward procedure. The African Snakebite Institute trains thousands of people a year across 19 African countries in snake awareness, venomous snake handling, and first aid in snakebites. It is the largest supplier of quality snake handling equipment in Africa.

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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