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Safety Matters


Our blog discussing workplace safety opportunities in Nova Scotia and around the world.

Kings County SPCA making safety a priority for all

With a renewed commitment to education and prevention, the Kings County SPCA has made their organization a safe haven for both workers and animals alike.

Following a dog attack incident in October 2017, Sandra Flemming, Provincial Director, and Joanne Landsburg, Chief Provincial Investigator, knew they had to make a change. 

"Red Dog" training shows workers how to safely handle animals with unpredictable energy or aggressive histories.

The attack occurred when, as part of regular protocol, an employee went to check on one of the shelter's dogs. Suddenly, when she reached forward, the dog – who had no previous history of aggressive behaviour-- latched onto the worker's arm and refused to let go. The worker was dragged 100 yards before her calls for help reached the only other worker in the facility, who rushed to her aid.

The attack was unlike anything the shelter had seen before. It was exactly this unpredictability that Sandra and Joanne knew they had to mitigate. 

 "The chance of a serious injury occurring is drastically reduced when organizations have strong safety programs," says Mason MacDonald, a workplace consultant who had the opportunity of working alongside Sandra and Joanne. "Everything has to be written down – there has to be a policy for everything."

Since that time, Sandra and Joanne have implemented a "total safety turnaround." 

"One thing we developed, which I think is the biggest piece of it all, is a system where only certain staff are able to handle really aggressive animals," says Mason. 

The system is colour-coded by green, yellow and red. Every animal that comes through the shelter is categorized during its intake process:

  • Green means any worker or volunteer can handle the animal
  • Yellow warns that only certain experienced workers or volunteers can handle the animal

  • Red means only workers and volunteers with the mandatory training can handle the animal

"The 'red' animal training is now being closely monitored," says Mason. "They've established a whole new training protocol on how to handle animals." 

The branch now has a complex and robust filing system for each and every person working with the animals, both employee and volunteer.

"That was a huge challenge – some volunteers come in once a month, others three times a week. So all of the policies that we were developing also had to apply to volunteers."

With today's policies, Mason says the risks of another accident like the one in October have been drastically reduced.

"It's completely different now," says Mason. 

Old signage (left) at the shelter was inconsistent and unclear. New signage (right) uses a clear and easy to follow pattern. 

For one, staff have started carrying walkie-talkies, a decision that Mason says "could have gotten [the injured worker] help much faster."

Sandra and Joanne have worked to ensure that it's not just changes to the floor being made, but also changes behind the scenes of the organization. They have re-established their JOHSC committee with a new line of focus on identifying and eliminating hazards for the safety of their employees. 

Throughout the entire process, Mason has seen all members of the organization respond with openness, enthusiasm and commitment to the changes.

 "Meeting by meeting, we've become very close," he says. "We stay in touch on a regular basis to discuss new changes or to brainstorm ideas. At meetings we'll have animals in and out, and everyone is super bubbly."

"The SPCANS is an organization that has shown great commitment and care for their employees, and I've learned a lot from working with them."


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