Staying Safe from Poisonous Plants and Hazardous Wildlife

When performing tree work, there are a variety of hidden dangers to be aware of on the job including poisonous plants and biting and stinging insects or animals. Identification of nature’s hazards are important, but there are steps you can take to stay safe against these threats.

Poisonous Plants

Coming into contact with poisonous plants and their oils can cause extreme discomfort, rashes and more. When working in areas with potentially hazardous plants, wearing long sleeve shirts, long pants and gloves are ideal to avoid direct contact with your skin. However, if you encounter one of these plants, their toxic oils are likely to stick to your clothing.

Urushiol is the name of the toxin found in plants like poison ivy that causes skin irritation. Remember, just because a plant is dead doesn’t mean that Urushiol is not present on it.

If you come into contact with a poisonous plant, remember these tips:

  • Urushiol can be neutralized with water if washed off within 5 minutes of contact
  • Soap will actually spread Urushiol, so avoid using it when washing off this oil
  • Urushiol will cling to clothing, which can spread to your skin later if not addressed
  • To wash clothes that have come into contact with Urushiol, be sure to wash them separately from uncontaminated clothes and wear gloves when transferring clothes to the dryer
  • Clean non-washable items with warm water and detergent to remove oils
  • For itchiness, apply cold water compresses
  • Soaking the rash in lukewarm water and baking solution can help dry the area out
  • Scratching the area won’t cause the rash to spread, but can lead to infection if there are bacteria living under your nails


When working around plants, never ingest any part of a plant or mushroom that you cannot identify or are not 100% sure is safe to eat. If you feel that a poisonous plant is going to interfere with operations, work with your crew leader for instruction on how to deal with the issue.

Biting and Stinging Insects and Animals

On the job, its likely you’ll run into your fair share of critters such as spiders, ticks, snakes, bees, wasps and hornets, imported fire ants, squirrels and raccoons. During your pre-job inspections, it’s important to keep an eye out for things such as paper wasp nests, the hum of honeybee hives, and any cavities that could house insects or wildlife. Be sure to keep an eye out for mammals like squirrels or raccoons that are acting strangely or seem to be unafraid of humans, as this can be a sign of rabies.

If not careful, coming into contact with these creatures can lead to bites and stings, slips and falls when trying to escape, hypersensitive reactions, exposure to chronic illnesses like Lyme disease or rabies, and even injury from misapplied medication.

Stay safe by keeping the following tips in mind:

  • Report any strange animal behavior of mammals to local animal wardens of the local police department, in case rabies may be present
  • Panicked squirrels can startle workers and lead to slips and falls
  • Never reach your hand into a tree cavity of hidden place unless you’re wearing gloves
  • When applicable, carry a chemical deterrent for protection
  • For areas where ticks may be present, tuck pants into socks
  • Be sure to check for ticks crawling up your pants and trying to climb to your head

Be Aware

Brown recluse and black widow spiders are both venomous spiders found in the U.S. that like to hide in dark, hidden areas like tree cavities. Ticks prefer tall grass and meadows and will attach themselves to animals (or you) if you walk by them. Imported fire ants only exists in the southeastern US and nest in soil.

If you see any of these critters, alert your crew leader. Next time you’re on the job, remember these safety tips to steer clear of mischievous wildlife and keep yourself safe.
Posted: 7/29/2019 1:19:36 PM by Global Administrator