A frightened Chihuahua introduced Aimee McKay to the workplace safety hazards at BARC. McKay learned a valuable lesson about how to carry small dogs after the Chihuahua lunged and bit McKay’s face.
With the safety of her colleagues and animals in mind, McKay now teaches courses about animal behavior to her fellow BARC employees. That’s why the animal care technician supervisor was selected as the December Safety Star.
McKay studied wildlife and fisheries sciences and animal behavior at Texas A&M University. She draws on her educational background to teach safety training at BARC. In addition to avoiding bites and scratches, McKay wants to strengthen the bond between animal care technicians and the animals in their charge.
“BARC Has its own set of safety precautions,” McKay said. “Our safety concerns go way beyond slips trips and falls. We have to work together to reduce animal-inflicted injuries.”
“We teach positive reinforcement, loose leash walking and classes about handling cats and dogs, how to read and respond to their body languages,” McKay said. “We teach how to handle fearfully aggressive animals or shy animals, how to bring them out of their shell be more comfortable here, and ultimately make them more adoptable.”
There are obvious animal behavior indicators like barking, whining, and putting their tail between their legs, but some indicators are more subtle, she said. For example, McKay said a dog who is agitated or uncomfortable will lick their lips or yawn excessively.
BARC employees face environmental safety hazards as well. Many of the larger kennels are cleaned with garden hoses, which McKay and her colleagues have to keep out of walkways. They are also supplied with tools of the trade, or personal protection equipment like tall rubber boots, gloves, aprons and ear plugs.
“You wouldn’t believe how loud it gets when you have a room full of barking dogs or meowing cats,” McKay said.
Luis Cruz, Human Resources safety supervisor, praised McKay for her keen eye and swift action to remedy potential safety hazards.
“Aimee has stepped up her safety prowess by recently leading the charge in getting safety items mitigated at her facility,” Cruz said. “Her prompt attention to safety in training or communicating hazards to employees is vital to a safe culture at BARC.”
“For example, items that have been communicated to her as safety at risk items, or potential hazards to employees, have consistently been mitigated, or eliminated. She has also put together a safety procedure for employees at BARC that when implemented will safely increase movement in and out of an intake area where there is high employee movement with limited space,” Cruz said. “I appreciate her efforts in creating and sustaining a safety culture in her workplace.”
Recently McKay and her colleagues called attention to a set of doors that didn’t have windows in them, putting employees at risk of blindly hitting people on the other side. McKay said they voiced their concern and the General Services is improving the door visibility.