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Preventing or controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions - Guidance on inspection and enforcement

SIM 01/2011/02

Summary

This guidance provides information and advice on inspection and enforcement action to be taken by HSE inspectors and Environmental Health Officers in connection with the risk of infection with E.coli O157, Cryptosporidium parvum and other micro-organisms from animal contact at visitor attractions.

Guidance for duty holders on the measures they should take to protect the health of visitors and staff is set out in the industry Code of Practice ‘Preventing or controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attraction’ and the abridged ‘Summary of control measures’ available at www.face-online.org.uk/CodeofPractice

Introduction

To provide advice and guidance on the key issues and the application of HSE’s Enforcement Policy Statement (EPS) and Enforcement Management Model (EMM) to the risks associated with E.coli O157, Cryptosporidium parvum and other infectious micro-organisms at visitor farm (and similar) attractions

Action

HSE inspectors and Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) should be aware of this guidance and refer to it in:

The aim of visits/inspections should be to provide assurance that the controls in place at visitor farm attractions are satisfactory and consistent with the guidance in the industry Code of Practice.

Inspectors and/or EHOs carrying out visits to visitor attractions, should use this guidance and the standards set out in the industry Code of Practice as the basis for assessing compliance.

LAs may contact FOD Divisions seeking advice or support: specifically help from inspectors to assess the degree to which specific visitor farm attractions comply with the guidance before taking enforcement decisions. HSE is prepared to assist Principal Environmental Health Officers, but any assistance will be on the understanding that HSE is not the enforcing authority and cannot make enforcement decisions (except where staff hold flexible warrants).

Background

Visitor farm attractions (including open farms) are commercial operations the primary purpose of which is leisure/entertainment, at which visitors are encouraged to have hands-on contact with animals. Responsibility for enforcing health and safety legislation at such premises falls to the LAs by virtue of the Health & Safety (Enforcing Authority) Regulations 1998. However, there are a small number of equivalent ‘attractions’ on premises, the main activity of which is as an ‘agricultural undertaking’ for which enforcement falls to HSE.

Guidance on the risk of infection with E.coli O157, Cryptosporidium parvum and other micro-organisms is predicated on the assumption that microbiological hazards are always liable to be present on farms i.e. that it is not possible to prevent exposure. The guidance focuses on preventing or controlling the risk.

Different types of visitor farm attraction present different levels of risk of exposure to or infection with E.coli O157 and Cryptosporidium parvum. The degree of risk is difficult to quantify but influencing factors include the:

Organisation

HSE-Enforced Farms

Farms subject to HSE enforcement are working farms (i.e. commercial agricultural undertakings) whose primary purpose is agriculture and for which visitor access by members of the public is educational and secondary or incidental to the main farm business. The attraction will not normally be a separate business nor will it be dissociated from the management of the main farm.

Such premises include:

Similar schemes operate in Scotland and administered by the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET).

Current Guidance

The industry Code of Practice is based on and replaces HSE’s Agriculture Information Sheet 23(rev) ‘Preventing or controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions with supplement for teachers and others who organise visits for children’. As well as the Code of Practice there is a smaller ‘Summary of control measures’ document. They have been produced by the Access to Farms partnership which includes representatives of a number of organisations whose members encourage visitors, especially children to visit their farm, farm or other attraction to view, touch or pet animals. Both HSE and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health were consulted in the production of the Code of Practice. Both endorse and support the code.

The industry Code of Practice incorporates the recommendations from the Independent Investigation Committee report into the major outbreak of E.coli O157 in Surrey in 2009. It is aimed at duty holders and through the supplement at teachers or others in charge of visits as a work activity, not at members of the public. However, it is important to remember that members of the public have a personal responsibility for following the good hygiene advice provided to them when visiting visitor farm attractions, as well as working farms.

Evidence base for the assessment of risk

Neither E.coli O157 nor Cryptosporidium parvum are notifiable diseases under Regulation 5 and Schedule 3 of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995.

Available epidemiological data suggests there has historically been between ~800 and ~1400 confirmed cases of E. coli O157 (sporadic and outbreaks) p.a. from all known sources in Great Britain in recent years. Of these possibly up to 10% of cases are thought to be the result of animal to human transmission but it is not known how many of these are the result of infection at visitor farm attractions.

Given fluctuation in the number of cases year-on-year and in the absence of data as to the number of cases connected with farms or contact with farm animals, HSE is not aware of any evidence of a substantive increase in the prevalence or incidence of infection in GB.

Health and Safety Arrangements

Subject to any normal risk assessment of staff with underlying health problems, the following points should be noted in carrying out visits to visitor farm attractions:

Enforcement Guidance

Guidance on enforcement by HSE inspectors and EHOs is set out at Annex 1 and isreflects the principles set out in the HSE Board’s Enforcement Policy Statement and HSE’s Enforcement Management Model (EMM).

The EMM provides a framework to assist inspectors to make enforcement decisions. Inspectors are expected to apply the EMM in all their regulatory actions but it is not intended to fetter the exercise of discretion: it is a toolbook, not a rulebook.

Guidance on applying the EMM principles to health risks is set out in HSE’s Operational Circular – OC 130/5: ’General guidance on application to health risks’ and is intended to help inspectors reach a proportionate enforcement decision. It contains advice on use of the EMM, determining the Risk Gap, risk-based decisions and compliance issues and refers to the Initial Enforcement Expectation (IEE).

The industry Code of Practice comprises a package of measures some of which are risk based, some of which are not. Failure to comply with a number of the key risk control measures may result in a ‘Serious Health Effect’ including specifically:

Measures such as:

Other measures such as the failure to carry out a risk assessment are not of themselves risk based, but rather are ‘administrative failures’ for which the level of non-compliance needs to be considered against the authority of the benchmark standard in determining the Initial Enforcement Expectation.

The guidance in Annex 1 does not seek to direct enforcement in any particular case but rather to:

Further References

Further information can be found at the HSE Agriculture website

Contacts

Agriculture, Waste & Recycling Sector

Appendices

Updated 2013-11-04