Responder Health and Safety

Whatever activities are undertaken in the response to oiled wildlife, the health and safety of the responders comes first. If the health and safety of people involved in the response cannot be guaranteed in relation to the apparent risks, no activity should be undertaken.

Risks when working in a wildlife response

Rescue efforts (beaches, boats)

Hyperthermia
Hypothermia
Falls – cuts, fractures, concussion, oil contamination
Wildlife injuries – bites, cuts and scratches, stab wounds (sharp bills)
Serious lacerations and broken bones (from mammals)
Disease (zoonoses)
Back damage (lifting heavy animals)
Toxic fumes – early in incident in confined spaces
Water hazards-falling into cold and/or contaminated waters
Sunstroke
 
Handling and rehabilitating wildlife
Injuries from wildlife –  bites, cuts and scratches, stab wounds (sharp bills)
Serious lacerations and broken bones (from mammals)
Disease (zoonoses)
Back damage (lifting heavy animals)
Chemical spillages and exposure to fumes
Allergies
Heat stress
General slips/trips/falls
Injuries from medical equipment (needles, syringes)
Electrical injury and thermal burns
 
General
Stress
Fatigue

Precautionary measures to be taken

Safe working conditions

Risk assessments need to be made for each part of the operation, resulting in a site safety plan covering each work site.

Responder awareness

The safety of individuals is based on an understanding and practice of five basic principles:

  • maintaining safe working conditions and procedures;
  • understanding occupational health;
  • understanding the potential hazards of working with oiled wildlife;
  • wearing adequate personal protective equipment (ppe);
  • practicing good personal hygiene. 

Protective equipment

As a minimum staff should have:

  • Field team: coveralls, rubber boots, hard hats
  • Working with animals: coveralls, gloves, safety glasses
  • Washing animals: waterproof clothing, gloves, safety glasses.