NT WorkSafe recently issued a safety alert on the risk of sea snake bites to workers in the fishing and aquaculture industry, following an incident in which a worker on board a prawn trawler operating in the Gulf of Carpentaria died after being bitten on the hand by a sea snake.
At the time of the incident, the worker was folding the emptied trawl nets as the nets were being lowered by a hoist. The snake was still in the nets when the worker was bitten. The snake was picked up and thrown overboard by a co-worker.
The bitten worker said to co-workers he was fine, and therefore there was a short delay before he was immobilised, first aid applied and emergency evacuation requested. The worker died later that day.
The safety alert said there were a number of contributing factors to the incident:
Initial findings indicate a level of complacency towards the dangers of sea snakes within the fishing and aquaculture industry, with workers routinely handling sea snakes without PPE to throw the snakes back overboard.
A contributing factor may be the mistaken belief that sea snake fangs are located at the back of the mouth, or down the throat resulting in only ‘dry bites’ (bites without venom).
The alert recommended a number of required actions: