Poisonous Plants, Venomous Insects and Snakes

Like most incidents and injuries, prevention is important in controlling the hazards from interaction with poisonous snakes, insects and plants. Therefore, each employee shall review the work activities planned to determine what exposure might exist for these particular hazards. Efforts should then be made to minimize situations which might result in a snakebite, insect sting or contact with poisonous plants. To help minimize attraction of snakes and insects, employees should also avoid wearing bright clothes, perfumes, after shaves, etc.  When scheduling work in a known infested area, a First Aid kit should be readily available.  Inclusion of an Epi Pen and Benadryl should be considered.


  1. Employees shall wear work boots, long pants and long sleeved shirts when going into wooded areas and habitats conducive to snakes.
  2. Employees should be trained in how to identify venomous snakes prior to being assigned field activities.
  3. Employees working in vegetative areas should be equipped with a bush axe to clear underbrush and for protection. 
  4. Employees should avoid reaching or stepping into and over hidden and obscured areas.
  5. Employees should make as much noise as possible when approaching a potential snake area. This alerts the snake to your presence and offers the snake time to leave
  6. If a snakebite occurs, the employee should:
    1. Remain as calm as possible. 
    2. Move away from the snake. 
    3. Apply a constricting bandage (not tourniquet) between the wound and heart. A finger should be able to pass under it. Apply ice to bite area, if available. 
    4. Allow a co-worker to transport him/her to closest medical facility. 
    5. Make every effort to identify the markings on the snake. This information should be provided to treating medical personnel to assist with treatment protocols.
    6. Elevate the bite area (if possible). 
  7. Only under the following circumstances should incisions and mechanical suction be considered as treatment for a snakebite: 
      1. The victim is over 1.5 hours from medical assistance, and
      2. The person administering first aid has received advanced training in medical assistance, such as First Responder, EMT, etc. and has the appropriate and proper First Aid approved equipment to do so. 

Insect Stings
Employees should: 
  1. Wear appropriate clothing. 
  2. At the site, conduct a hazard review to determined the location of any stinging insects (wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, etc.).
  3. Whenever possible, avoid areas where stinging insects might be located. 
  4. Schedule work in infested areas during the cool months. 
  5. Avoid high smelling after shaves, colognes, etc., that may attract insects. 
  6. Be aware of known allergic reactions that you or a co-worker may have to insect stings.
  7. When a stinging insect nest is located, utilize appropriate insecticide to alleviate the threat. (Available commercially or from the NCDOT, product: Wasp Spray DOT # 34-02250 and Flying Insect Spray DOT # 34-01825). 
  8. If a sting does occur, any stinger should be removed with tweezers or a fingernail. The area may then be treated with Sting Kill Swabs (Available commercially or from DOT # 34-01850) and/or Hydrocortisone (Available commercially or through DOT # 34-02350).

Ticks and Chiggers
Ticks are especially important to note because of the possibility of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme Disease.
To minimize exposure, employees should follow these guidelines: 
  1. Wear appropriate clothing when working in wooded areas. Light colors make it easier to spot ticks.
  2. Tape trouser legs closed around ankles or tuck trouser legs into socks.
  3. For ticks, use a tick repellent containing DEET or permethrin. (Available commercially or from the NCDOT, product # 34-02050)
  4. Check yourself at least twice a day, paying particular attention to the hair, neck and groin area. 
  5. Use a tick removal tool to remove attached ticks and chiggers. If no tool is available, utilize tweezers. If no tweezers are available, use a piece of paper to protect your fingers while removing the tick.
  6. Do not use petroleum based liquids to remove the tick. Grasp tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull slowly and straight up without twisting until tick releases. Ensure that you remove the tick's embedded head from the skin. After tick removal, apply appropriate antibiotic to the affected area .
  7. Notify your supervisor if a tick is found and request that the date and condition (i.e., attached) be noted on the DENR tick summary log for future reference. (If possible, retain tick and place it in a container for later identification of the tick type by the Division of Environmental Health's Public Health Pest Management Branch or NCDENR preferred provider.)
  8. Call the NCDENR preferred provider if fever, chills, headaches or muscle aches develop within 3-20 days after exposure. In some cases, a rash may develop on the wrists and ankles 1-3 days after the fever begins. 

  1. Use repellent.

Poisonous Plants
Most NCDENR employee's have exposure to at least three types of poisonous plants: poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac. Reactions range from mild (very little or none) to severe (rash and blisters). Employees who have no reaction may not have become sensitized, but once they are, future exposures can result in an allergic reaction.

To avoid problems with poisonous plants, employees should: 
  1. Avoid working in severely infested areas, if at all possible. (Learn to recognize the various types of plants.) 
  2. Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, and work gloves. If you are performing clearing activities by hand (e.g., bush axes, machetes, etc.) or power tools, use eye goggles/safety glasses to prevent poisonous plants from entering your eyes. 
  3. Use protective or other barrier creams where available. 
  4. Use a Poison Ivy Wash (Available commercially or from the NCDOT, product # 34-01610) on any skin that may have been exposed. In some cases, even 24 hours after exposure may help. 
  5. Avoid working around burn piles that could  have poisonous plants. Inhalation of smoke with poisonous plant oils can be extremely dangerous.
  6. Be sure that any clothes or shoes that may have been exposed receive a thorough washing. Residual oils on clothing could cause a reaction days later. 
  7. Avoid rubbing your eyes if you have been in contact with poisonous plants.
  8. If a severe reaction develops, contact your NCDENR preferred provider for possible treatment. (If you do not know the name of your preferred provider, contact your Workers' Compensation coordinator, or Safety Officer/Consultant.)
  9. Be aware of any previous allergic reactions to these plants and take extra precaution to avoid exposure.
Updated May 2005