Q&A with WHS Manager Alana Morris

Posted 29 November 2019

Q&A with WHS Manager Alana Morris

Q: What do I do if I see a snake on site? And what is the first aid management of a snake bite?

A:  With warmer days ahead, the chances of snake sightings across the capital are more likely. There are eight species of snakes known to occupy Canberra, including;

While all snakes in the ACT are venomous, except the blind snake, they are shy, nonaggressive creatures that will quickly retreat if not provoked.*potentially dangerous

Snakes are protected by law in all states and territories of Australia and may not be killed unless they threaten life. Offences under the Nature Conservation Act 2014 carry severe penalties. Snakes cannot be taken from the wild, kept without a license, or traded without a license.

Snakes are naturally shy and their first form of defence is to move away from danger, including humans. If provoked or cornered, a snake may attempt to protect itself by striking. People are most likely to be bitten when attempting to kill or handle a snake. An infant snake is more likely to envenomate than a mature snake, as it is still learning how to preserve venom for the purposes of food (so a smaller snake is not a less venomous or dangerous snake!) Snakes can strike very rapidly if aroused. To avoid being bitten:

- move away and let the snake go on its way

- never try to kill or handle a snake

- be alert at all times in the bush, especially in the early morning when snakes are more likely to be sunning themselves

- cover up with trousers and enclosed shoes when bushwalking and gardening in overgrown places

- avoid walking through long grass

- avoid putting your hand into hollow logs or rock crevices

If someone is bitten by a snake:

- Ensure the area is clear.

- Do not attempt to catch or identify the snake, this is not necessary for treatment. Do not wash the wound, medical staff can use excess venom to identify the snake.

- Call an ambulance on 000 – treat all snake bites as envenomated

- Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage (aka snake bite bandage) firmly, starting at the wound, moving to the extremities (fingers/ toes) and then up the limb to the armpit/ groin. You may require multiple bandages. If you do not have a pressure immobilisation bandage, use a conforming material, like pantyhose or crepe/ compression bandages.

- Apply a splint to immobilise the limb. For a snake bite to the leg, the easiest way to do this is to use a rope or a bandage to tie the ankles and knees together. You could also use a plank of wood, folded cardboard or any other sturdy material.

- Keep the casualty as still as possible. Venom spreads through the lymphatic system. Do not give food, medication or alcohol as this will stimulate fluid movement in the lymphatic system.

- Keep the casualty calm and wait for help to arrive.

For snake removal:

If you find a snake in your property and have concerns for your safety, there are licensed services available that can assist you. The following organisations are currently licensed to undertake the activity of taking and releasing locally occurring native species:

-          ACT Snake Removals - 0450 210 090

-          Canberra Snake Catcher and Reptile Removals - 0421 281 439

-          Canberra Reptile Zoo - (02) 6253 8533

-          Canberra Snake Rescue and Relocation - 0405 405 304

The above contacts are available 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Please note licensed organisations may charge a fee. It is an offence under s132 of the Nature Conservation Act 2014 to take a native animal whether dead or alive without a nature conservation license.


Q: Why am I seeing smoke across the ACT and surrounds and what can I do to ensure the health and safety of workers?

A: A bushfire burning 50km south-east of Canberra, has created a smoke hazard across the ACT and surrounds. The fire, started by lightning on Tuesday evening, jumped containment lines yesterday, but has now been brought under control, with back burning operations continuing over the weekend.

While Australia’s national standard is less than 8 micrograms/m³ of ultrafine particles, suburbs 25km or more away from the fires have reached 50 micrograms/m³ in recent days. By comparison Jakarta, which frequently ranks among those cities with the most dangerous levels of air pollution, maintains particulate matter levels upwards of 140 micrograms/m³.

But Australia’s elevated concentrations from fires are enough to affect people with existing respiratory, heart and neurological conditions. According to the NSW department of health, short-term exposure to particulate matter appears to exacerbate pre-existing diseases while long-term exposure most likely causes disease and increases disease progression. Particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres are the most problematic, so small they can get deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream.

Dr Arnagretta Hunter, a cardiologist with Doctors for the Environment Australia, said the smoke smothering parts of Australia was most dangerous for those with pre-existing conditions such as asthma or heart disease.

Current advice from ACT Fire and Rescue is:

“There is currently a smoke plume and smoke haze impacting the ACT from fires burning in NSW. These fires do not pose a threat to the Territory. A change in wind direction has caused the smoke to blow across the region.

The ACT Emergency Services Agency wishes to reassure the community that there are no fires burning in the ACT.

Residents can monitor fires in NSW and the ACT via the NSW Fires Near Me app. If you see an unattended fire in the ACT, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.

A Total Fire Ban has been declared for the ACT 29 November 2019.

For further information please visit esa.act.gov.au. For hourly updates on air quality visit the ACT Health website.”

MBA ACT is urging members to check in on workers (particularly those with known respiratory illnesses such as COPD/ emphysema), have emergency plans (including medical and bushfire emergency plans and asthma management plans) on hand in case of emergency and remind workers to take care.

For more information or to report injured native wildlife please contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81.

If you have any WHS related enquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact our WHS Manager, Alana Morris on 02 6175 5900

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