Dress for success: 10 tips to stay safe outdoors


If you work in the SOWN nursery, at a bushcare site or on private property, you need to be aware of potential hazards and how to deal with them. These 10 tips are designed to help you assess the dangers and put in place simple strategies to stay safe.

1.    Dangerous creatures

Australia’s deadliest creatures include humans, dogs, horses, cows, sharks, crocodiles and irukandji jellyfish. More likely risks to your health in the Enoggera Creek catchment are insects, magpies and snakes. Very few local spiders have venom considered medically significant. While many people particularly fear spiders and snakes they tend not to be aggressive. If encountered, spiders and snakes are most likely to run away from humans – the trick is to stay out of their way. Wearing protective clothing is a very effective way to manage risk. Magpies and some insects actually may attack humans. In the case of the Australian paralysis tick Ixodes holocyclus, they sneak into your clothing or hair then start burrowing into your skin, sometimes detected days later. Insects such as bees, wasps, ticks and bull ants cause allergic reactions in some people which may result in anaphylaxis. If this or any other medical emergency occurs call 000 immediately. Despite these risks, dangers can be managed effectively by strategies listed below.

Redback spider Latrodectus hasselti inflicts a painful bite. Rarely found in Enoggera Creek catchment since the introduction of the Asian house gecko Hemidactylus frenatus PHOTO: Robert Whyte

European honeybees Apis mellifera frequently create hives in our beautiful Weeping lilly pilly Waterhousea floribunda PHOTO: Anne Jones

2.    Know the territory

Our local creeks have treacherous rocks and steep slopes. Old gnarled Waterhousea are perfect homes for European honeybees. Long grass is attractive to grazing wallabies and home to bandicoots which carry ticks ready to jump on to passing humans. Another common threat is twigs and grasses which can poke you in the eye. Be aware of these hazards and take care.

3.    Share your vulnerabilities

If you are working outdoors on your own, tell someone and check in with them when you finish. Always carry a mobile phone. If you have health conditions such as a cardiovascular condition, allergies or phobias (especially snakes and spiders), tell the group leader. If you’ve been prescribed an epipen carry it with you in case you need it.

4.    Dress the part

Full protective clothing can protect you from sun exposure, snakes, many insects, spiders, birds and mishandled equipment. Your full outfit should include sun-safe long-sleeved shirt, long pants, boots, gloves, a hat and a mobile phone. Optional extras include permethrin-treated clothing, epipen, safety glasses and sock savers. Ticks access humans from the ground and climb up. So look at ways to block their access.

5.    Repel those insects

Insect repellent is essential especially when trying to avoid the Australian paralysis tick. Local Habitat Brisbane officer Jodi Rees recommends spreading repellent directly on the skin with special attention to your neck and hairline, and the lines of your underwear. Once dressed use spray repellent all over your clothing and hair. Then put on your hat and spray that too. For more information read Beware the Tick. See also 10 When you get home below.

Wayne Briscoe and Patricia Wubben are dressed for success with long sleeves, long pants, gloves, boots, hats and insect repellent PHOTO: Anne Jones

A wide-brimmed hat is a good defence against the Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen PHOTO: Bidgee

6.    Be sun safe

If you “Dress the part” there’s not much skin left exposed to the sun. It’s always good to use sunscreen on your face especially if working in the heat of the day.

7.    You can leave your hat on

How important it is to wear a hat? A hat is not only an essential style statement, it’s a multi-purpose tool. It protects you from the sun, insects, magpies, falling branches and mishandled equipment. That’s a hat with a brim all round. Not a cap. If you happen to come across mature seed from a rare and endangered plant, you can use your hat you carry it away before labelling and delivering to the SOWN nursery.

8.    Careful with that pullsaw, Eugene

Always take care of your own safety and others when using tools and chemicals. One particular risk especially for people at the nursery is being exposed to Legionella longbeachae bacteria from potting mix and compost. You can breathe in dust containing the bacteria or from hand to mouth contact. Bushcarers should never reuse old potting mix bags for rubbish or green waste.

9.    Stay off the ground

If you are working at a bushcare site, it’s advisable to stay on your feet. While it can be tempting to sit down weeding for a while, you are much more vulnerable to prickly thorns and insects who decided to crawl up your pants leg. This particularly applies to ticks who mostly access human from the ground.

10. When you get home

If you have picked up any biting insects while working outdoors it’s advisable to brush or wash your hair, have a hot shower and launder your clothes. Don’t leave your clothes in your bedroom overnight. It’s pretty scary to wake up staring at an Australian paralysis tick marching toward you across the pillow.


Don’t wake up with an Australian paralysis tick Ixodes holocyclus PHOTO: Robert Whyte