A common sense approach to job safety
Overall learning objectives for this chapter
- Identify risks associated with the presence of nuisance wildlife and with wildlife control techniques.
- Understand how to protect yourself from falls, bites, heat stress, and wildlife diseases.
- Know which protective gear and safety equipment belongs in the NWCO “wardrobe.”
- Be familiar with the wildlife diseases that you’re most likely to encounter.
- Feel confident you can answer the common questions customers ask about wildlife diseases.
- Know who to contact if you’re dealing with a sick animal.
Relax, but don’t fall asleep at the wheel
“Had this squirrel job in an old house. I stepped off my ladder onto the metal roof, and pow! Those squirrels must have chewed through some wires that were touching the roof. The entire thing was electrified. I was lucky I didn’t fall off the roof.”
—Eric, NWCO in Connecticut
Throughout this chapter, we’ll discuss risks related to NWCO work or the presence of wild animals inside homes or businesses. In most cases, you’ll be called in after an animal has caused damage. The risk is easy to understand because the results are right there. What about those times when you see evidence of possible problems?
What’s the worst that could happen? How likely is it? Can the situation be prevented? These are the kinds of questions that will help you put things into perspective. For example, wildlife in the Northeast could potentially expose a person to about 200 different diseases. We’ll only discuss nine of them because the chances of being exposed to the others are very low.
NWCOs are more likely to be hurt by a car accident or a fall from a ladder than from a wildlife-related disease, but it’s West Nile that makes the news, isn’t it? We hope this chapter will help you better understand the risks posed by your work, so you can make good choices.
SECTION ONE: RISKS FACED BY YOUR CUSTOMERS
4.1 List four risks that nuisance wildlife pose to your customers’ health and safety.
4.2 Identify an example of wildlife damage that might concern a: business owner, apartment dweller, wildlife biologist, home owner, farmer, or government official.
4.3 Name two ways a method used to remove wildlife pests can be dangerous to the environment and people.
Risks that may come with the pests
When some wild species move in, they can put your customers and their property at risk. Some people don’t understand the possibilities until it’s too late. Others overreact. By offering credible information in a professional manner, you can help your customers make sensible decisions.
There are safety risks. Rodents, raccoons, and birds can cause fires by chewing wires or blocking vents or fans with their nests (fan motors might overheat and ignite the highly flammable nest materials). If a nest blocks a chimney, dangerous fumes could be trapped inside. Chewed wires may also cause electronic systems to fail—imagine the consequences in a jail or hospital. As previously mentioned, wildlife may collide with airplanes and cars.
And health risks. You, your customers, their pets and livestock might be bitten, scratched, or exposed to a wildlife disease, such as rabies. NWCOs are more likely to encounter a wildlife disease than the average person, because they often handle wild animals, and spend a lot of time in disease hot spots such as attics and crawl spaces. The close presence of wild animals (and their fur, dander, droppings, or parasites) can also trigger allergies in some people. Wild animals are often noisy at night, which might deprive your customers of sleep. That doesn’t sound too bad, until it’s happened night after night after night.
Nuisance wildlife pose financial risks. To gain entrance to a building, some animals might destroy parts of the exterior. Once inside, they might chew or soil woodwork and many other materials; items stored in attics are particularly vulnerable. Raccoons and mice often ruin insulation, causing heating and cooling bills to rise. Chewed wires, of course, might need replacement, which can be expensive. Remember some of the estimates of damage to crops, landscapes, dams, and roads mentioned in the introduction?
They may threaten other wildlife or change habitats. A nuisance animal may introduce a disease to another species. In large numbers, the nuisance species might kill and eat many of that other species, or destroy their habitat.
Some of the removal methods present their own dangers to people and the environment. An improperly set trap may capture or injure the wrong species, and could even be hazardous to people. If misused, pesticides can contaminate water, soil, and air. They can kill other species too, including beneficial organisms that help control pest populations. Certain pesticides and euthanasia products can also be dangerous to people. Even exclusion, one of the favored methods, has risks associated with it, because a highly motivated animal may damage the building to get back in, especially if it has young inside.
Has a giant alien worm invaded the lawn, ready to strike your customer’s child? No, of course not. These are mole tunnels, made by a creature that poses few health or safety risks to people. If this happened to the greens of a golf course, the manager might consider it as a financial risk. Whether or not your customers call this a nuisance depends on their perspectives.
Higher, deeper, further…
- Walk around your neighborhood and look for signs of wildlife damage.
- Start a file of newspaper clippings of stories about nuisance wildlife problems.
- Ask your friends, neighbors, or local business people if they’ve experienced any losses caused by wildlife.
Before you move on, you may wish to review the learning objectives for this section:
1 List four risks that nuisance wildlife pose to your customers’ health and safety.
2 Identify an example of wildlife damage that might concern a: business owner, apartment dweller, wildlife biologist, home owner, farmer, or government official.
3 Name two ways a method used to remove wildlife pests can be dangerous to the environment and people.