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Cottonmouth Snakes Can Be a Threat on Outdoor Job Sites

For certain workers, there can be a very real opportunity to encounter venomous snakes. Any of the following work could expose individuals to the dangers of snakes while on the job.

  • Forestry
  • Landscaping
  • Tree Trimming
  • Grounds Keep
  • Site Clearing
  • General Housekeeping
  • Road Construction
  • Response to Natural Disasters
OSHA Standard 1926.21(b)(4) says that in job site areas where harmful plants or animals are present, employees who may be exposed shall be instructed regarding the potential hazards, and how to avoid injury, and the first aid procedures to be used in the event of injury.

Cottonmouth snakes can be large, usually about 4 - 5 feet long. Adult cottonmouth snakes have a dark tan, brown, or nearly black skin color usually with black or dark brown cross bands. Younger cottonmouth snakes will often have a more visible cross banded pattern of brown or orange with a yellow tail.

Cottonmouth snakes can be found in the Southeastern United States. Workers may find cottonmouth snakes in or around water such as in slow-moving and shallow lakes, streams and marshes. Cottonmouths can give a painful and even fatal bite. The Cottonmouth snake will defend itself when threatened and does not scare easily. When threatened, Cottonmouths will stand their ground by coiling their bodies and displaying their fangs.

When covering the dangers of snake encounters during your safety meeting, make sure to emphasize these important points:

  • Watch where you place your hands and feet when removing debris and taking care of housekeeping outside. Consider wearing heavy gloves, especially when working outdoors and dealing with brush, leaves, or piles of lumber. Consider wearing boots at least 10 inches high especially if working near water areas where snakes may be present.
  • Remember, snakes often bite only when threatened. If you see a snake, step back and allow it to proceed.
  • If bitten, call 911 immediately! Pay attention to the color of the snake and the shape of the snake's head to help with treatment. Have someone take a photo, if possible.
  • Keep bite victims calm and reduce movement to slow the possible spread of venom. Lay the victim down so the bite is below the level of the heart. Cover the bite wound with a clean, dry dressing. NEVER cut the wound or attempt to suck out the venom.

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