We are tempted to say that it is just déjà vu all over again. But in reality, it is really just the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon all over again. Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon where you come across some unique piece of information that might have been previously unknown to you; and then, almost inexplicably, you encounter the exact same subject again, often more than once. If you’ve never before heard of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, there is a good chance you will hear of it again, soon. After all, that is what Baader-Meinhof does.

And that is what I experienced this week while attending the SAWCA Annual Conference in Savannah, GA. It started with a session Tuesday presented by Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Wes Marshall called “When Animals Attack.” Marshall recounted numerous workers’ compensation claims that were the result of an injury caused by some sort of interaction with an animal. While the outcomes of several of those cases were a surprise to the audience, the concept of animal related workers’ comp incidents was a unique one. We just haven’t spoken about them much.

Sure, we have the occasional Wildebeest goring or Rhinoceros crushing. We’ve had a football mascot emasculated by the improper holding of a t-shirt cannon. We’ve even had PETA insisting on a roadside memorial to honor 4,500 lobsters who perished in a tragic motor vehicle accident. But we just don’t talk about animals and workers’ comp that often.

But just as sure as there is a Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, an article crossed my path the very next day discussing – wait for it – animal related injuries in workers’ comp.

Oregon comp insurer SAIF has reported that over 1,900 claims involving dogs and cats have been filed in the last five years in the state. They reported that veterinary services, pet care, and universities had the highest rate of injuries. Healthcare workers are another big group. Since 2014, “there were 30 cat-related injuries in home health care, nursing care facilities, hospitals, and residential care facilities combined.” Not to be outdone, what is being described as “dog-related injuries,” accounted for 94 cases in the same time frame. There were also dog injuries in industries that provide in-home services; like janitorial services and plumbing, heating, and AC contractors. Those categories accounted for 54 injuries. Restaurants surprisingly, accounted for 20 dog-related injuries.

SAIF says it is important to “approach pets cautiously to avoid injury and unnecessary stress to the pets.” They also offer: 

  • If the pet is accompanied by an owner, always ask permission before approaching or petting the animal.
  • If the animal is in a car, avoid reaching through the window; this may cause the pet to feel scared or attacked.
  • Approach pets slowly and calmly; ideally, let the pet approach you on their own terms.
  • If the pet is calm, comes to you, and solicits attention, pet gently.
  • If you’re in doubt whether a pet is exhibiting fearful or aggressive behavior, ignore it and avoid it.                                      

Additionally, the Cluttered Desk Research Team has assembled these supplementary recommendations:

  • When working around a pack of dogs, don’t wear your lucky ham.
  • If the pet is an alligator, do not attempt to play a game of fetch.
  • The game “Toss the Kitty” never ends well.
  • Similarly, “Spin the Doggie’s Tail” is another game that never ends well.
  • Don’t smoke the catnip, it may anger Kitty.
  • When working around a group of pet pigs, don’t wear your lucky ham. The reasons should be obvious.

And that is the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon as it applies to animals in workers’ comp. I am sure that legislatures everywhere will be moving rapidly to ban animals in both homes and businesses before this becomes an even greater epidemic. In the meantime, for some actually useful information on this topic, you can visit the SAIF website at saif.com/animalsafety.



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