One of the primary draws to golf – for both golfers and course staff – is the natural, wide-open spaces that the game takes place in. While the rolling greens and lush wilds provide an escape from bustling urban life, their idyllic expanses can hide their own dangers that Superintendents and staff need to be prepared to deal with. Foremost among these concerns while interacting with a natural habitat are those involving injuries caused by bees, snakes, and insects. We at Golf Safety have put together a few insights regarding how you can reduce and handle the risks of the critters, crawlers, and creatures that share your green space!

Injuries caused by these critters can vary in severity from a minor inconvenience, to a life-threatening incident – and this is all dependent on the circumstances surrounding the incident. As a superintendent, your responsibility is to prevent and protect – and this can be achieved, in large part, by having solid preparations and planning in place to control these mitigating circumstances.

Bees and Insects:

The first step in the prevention of worker harm from bees and insects is to be aware of the potential hazards present on your course – long grass, shrubberies, wooded areas and bodies of water often contain nests and hives. It’s always a good idea for management to inform employees of these risks, however, it’s more important to train the staff that it’s “their” job to maintain awareness of the potential dangers in all tasks they perform and report any new potential danger hotspots.

If a nest is discovered, under no circumstances should employees be instructed to remove it? Doing so without the assistance of a professional could prove illegal and potentially fatal. When at risk of encountering a hive or nest, employees must be provided with appropriate PPE and adequate warning of the risk in their vicinity. Certain bees fall under protected wildlife categories, and their colonies must be attended to by a consulting professional to ensure compliance with regional conservation laws.

Treatment of Bee and Insect related injuries:

Though stings and bites from bees and insects may seem inconsequential, if not treated properly, they could result in serious ailments and even hospitalizations. When treating a sting or bite on yourself or a coworker, these are the steps you should follow: 

  1. Remove the victim from the area where it occurred to prevent any further stings or bites. 
  2. Wash and disinfect your hands before attending to wounded or broken skin to lower the risk of infection and inflammation
  3. If a stinger remains in the wound, remove it carefully with sterilized tweezers – do not squeeze the area as this could push the stinger further in. 
  4. Clean the wound with mild soapy water, and apply an anti-itch or bug sting cream to the wound site – this should be located in your course first aid kit. 
  5. If irritation persists after initial treatment, the victim may need to take an antihistamine

In instances where the victim experiences continued and severe irritation after this treatment, it may be necessary to seek medical assistance. The best way to determine whether or not you need medical attention is by evaluating the wound – for example, if there is excessive swelling at the site, the victim requires the attention of a doctor.

If a victim is allergic to the type of sting or bite that they have incurred, ask them if they have an Epipen, medication, or allergy kit with them. If they do, be sure to carefully read the instructions in the packaging accompanying these items and administer treatment exactly as instructed.

In the instance that the symptoms of a bite or sting are severe or exaggerated, you need to seek medical attention immediately. While you wait for medical help to arrive, loosen any restricting clothing to help the victim breathe. Then, you should help the victim to the floor and roll them onto their side in the case of vomiting or bleeding.

Continue monitoring the victim’s pulse and breathing. If they stop breathing or their pulse becomes faint, you will need to perform CPR right away. Only a person trained in the administration of CPR should perform this. If you haven’t been trained or don’t feel comfortable with performing CPR, find a first aid certified team member, or call 911 to have them guide you through the process.

Snakes:

Snakes, though generally a less common occurrence on a course than harmful insects, are a risk that needs to be dealt with more swiftly and proactively. Though most common in bushy or wet areas, snakes can occur anywhere on a course – so watch your hands and feet while shifting debris, and do not place hands under anything that you can not see under. To act as PPE in the event of an encounter, thick boots, thick gloves, and high socks should be used in high-risk areas. OSHA indicates that boots should be at least 10 inches high to provide adequate protection. If a snake is encountered, employees should be instructed to keep at least 6 feet of distance to account for the snake’s striking distance. Supervisors should alert all staff of risk areas, and these areas should be avoided by workers when possible.

When encountering a snake, it is important to assess potential risks by determining whether it is venomous or not. All snake bites are serious – but a bite from a venomous snake has the potential to be fatal. Though copperheads, coral snakes, rattlesnakes, and water moccasins are the only poisonous species of snakes found in the United States, they may still be on your golf course – and should be treated as a much more serious risk than a non-venomous snake. How do we identify them?

  • Copperheads are usually found in the eastern parts of the US. They usually range from a red to gold color with an hourglass body shape. Their tail might have a bright yellow tip.
  • Coral snakes are usually found in the southern parts of the US. Like copperheads, coral snakes are also red, but they have yellow and black rings along their body. Unlike other poisonous snakes, these snakes don’t have slit eyes. 
  • Rattlesnakes are the most common type of venomous snakes and they are littered throughout the US. While there are 32 different types of rattlesnakes, they will all have a rattling sound to help you identify them. 
  • Lastly, water moccasins can be identified by their brown, black, or even yellow cross band appearance. You will find these snakes most likely near rivers in the southern parts of America.

Though identifying the exact snake species is helpful, it is more important in the heat of the moment of a sighting to determine whether the snake is venomous. One can do so using the following criteria that indicate venomousness:

  • A pointed, or arrow-like head
  • A rattle tail
  • Colorfulness – lookout for vivid yellows, greens, and reds
  • Slitted eyes and a depression between the eyes and nostrils

If a snake displays one or more of the above, keep your distance and observe extra caution. However, if a bite occurs, treat it as if the snake is venomous to take utmost precautions.

Treatment of Snake Related Injuries:

As stated above, snake bites require more proactive and urgent attention – and it is encouraged that all snake bites are treated as inflicted by a venomous animal, to prevent inaction caused by the misidentification of a species. Here are the steps to follow in the case that this occurs:

  1. Seek medical intervention immediately.
  2. Try to remember the size and coloration of the snake and relay this to your dispatcher during your 911 call.
  3. While waiting for medical intervention, the victim must remain as still as possible – slowing the spread of any venom through the body
  4. The first step of interim intervention is to lay the victim down, with the site of the bite elevated above the level of their heart
  5. The first responder should disinfect their hands before touching the wound, to prevent any potential infection.
  6. Once you’re ready to tend the wound, start cleaning the bite with mild soapy water to clear any irritants
  7. Cover the cleaned wound with a clean, dry dressing (found in your course’s first aid kit).

Always remember to seek medical intervention before administering first aid – as their quick response and expertise will be the deciding factor in the safety of your patient, and their timeous arrival is the most important aspect of caring for someone who has been bitten.

Your course, in all its appeal, can pose risks to those who maintain it – but by following the correct safety procedures and educating your staff on preventative and protective measures, these can be lessened and managed in a way that’s beneficial to everyone! Staying vigilant and following safety procedures when it comes to outdoor-related risk management will help you, your peers, and your clients, enjoy the facility you all work so hard to maintain!

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