Biosecurity: Guidance to staff who visit farms
- Open Government Status
- Fully Open
- Date issued
- Review date
- Author Unit/Section
- Agriculture & Food Sector
- Brief summary
- This guidance provides information on biosecurity measures to be followed by FOD staff who visit farms in the absence of, or during, an outbreak of a notifiable animal or plant disease.
- Target Audience
- FOD inspectors and other visiting staff
1. To provide advice to inspectors and other staff who visit farm premises of the biosecurity measures they should follow to avoid the spread of a notifiable animal or plant disease.
2. FOD inspectors and other staff who visit or access farm premises during the course of their work should follow the biosecurity measures set out below.
3. The Department for Environment, Food and Regulatory Affairs (DEFRA) has issued guidance on biosecurity for officials and others who visit farm premises. It deals with the precautions to be taken when entering or leaving any premises with farm animals in the absence of an outbreak of exotic notifiable disease; after confirmation of an outbreak of exotic notifiable disease; and to premises under specific animal disease restrictions. Defra emphasise the over-arching message is simple:
- 1. disease may not always be apparent, especially in its early stages;
- 2. be clean, particularly if handling animals or moving between different premises.
4. HSE has adopted the DEFRA guidance as the basis for biosecurity measures to be followed by Field Operations Directorate (FOD) staff that inspect or visit farms during the course of their work.
5. Staff in other HSE directorates who require access to or across farm land in discharging their statutory functions will need to consider the extent to which they need to comply with DEFRA's guidelines. The DEFRA code is not mandatory and it is accepted that there may be circumstances where compliance is not possible. Nevertheless the standards within the code represent and will inevitably be seen as 'best practice'. Failure to follow these standards or measures in the event of an outbreak is likely to expose HSE to reputational risks.
6. 'Biosecurity' means a series of measures and protocols designed to prevent potentially harmful biological agents (horticultural, animal or zoonoses) from entering or leaving a property. The measures include:
- 1. the cleaning and disinfection of clothing, equipment and vehicles etc;
- 2. working protocols designed to minimise movements, contact and therefore potential contamination of all people, vehicles and equipment used.
7. FOD staff who visit or access farm premises during the course of their work and who fail to carry out appropriate biosecurity measures on entering and leaving the farm run the risk of spreading plant or animal diseases to and from other farms. It is important that appropriate measures are taken whether or not any disease outbreaks have been reported, and even when for example animals have been removed from premises (disease-causing agents and their vectors can persist for some time). Some diseases are zoonotic (transmissible between animals and man). The adoption of biosecurity measures is therefore invariably consistent with good public health and occupational health considerations.
8. 'Appropriate' biosecurity measures depend on the risk (of spreading disease) associated with the visit. Factors that determine the level of risk include:
- 1. The type of farm – e.g. arable, livestock, mixed, horticultural;
- 2. Any restrictions applying to the farm – e.g. animal disease or plant health controls;
- 3. Any restrictions applying to the area - e.g. Restricted Infected Area or Infected Area;
- 4. The extent and reason for the visit - e.g. to the farmhouse to examine records, on-farm inspection of premises and equipment, on-farm inspection requiring close or direct contact with livestock, land inspection, etc.
9. The measures set out in paras. 10-12 are supplemented by the following appendices, which give additional information on the precautions to be followed by FOD staff when visiting particular types of farm premises:
- Appendix 1 - Arable farms;
- Appendix 2 - Livestock farms in the absence of an outbreak of a notifiable disease;
- Appendix 3 - Livestock farms following confirmation of an outbreak of a notifiable disease;
- Appendix 4 - Premises under specific animal disease restrictions.
10. The precautions detailed in Appendices 1 to 4 are based on the assumption that FOD inspectors and other visiting staff should not normally:
- 1. Come into close or direct contact with notifiable disease susceptible livestock (e.g. cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, camels, farmed deer, poultry etc);
- 2. Enter an arable crop other than by a public right of way.
11. Suitable and sufficient supplies of disinfectant, equipment for its use and appropriate PPE/RPE will be issued to inspectors and should be kept readily available for use when visiting farm premises.
12. Biosecurity measures to be followed by FOD visiting staff include:
- 1. Where appropriate and practicable, farm visits should be made following prior contact with the owner/farm manager. The opportunity should be taken to check what biosecurity arrangements (if any) are in place, whether you may use them and the arrangements for parking;
- 2. Wherever possible, vehicles should be parked off farm. If there is no alternative, vehicles taken on to a farm premises should be parked, where possible, on hard standing away from livestock. Vehicles should not normally be taken into areas to which livestock have access. Vehicles taken onto farm should be visibly free of animal excreta, slurry etc;
- 3. Before leaving the farm all visible contamination e.g. manure, slurry or similar material should be cleaned from the outside of the vehicle which should be disinfected using on-farm facilities. If this is not possible, vehicles should be cleaned before being taken onto another farm with livestock, either before the next visit or, if appropriate, at the end of the working day;
- 4. Suitable protective clothing should be worn on all farm visits. The purpose of protective clothing is to prevent any contamination being carried from farm to farm. The type of protective clothing and footwear required depends on the nature of the visit. For example, where the only likely contamination is to footwear, then protective clothing (other than footwear) may not be required. Examples of types of protective clothing include:
- 5. Disposable overalls (with head coverage of CE type 5 & 6 that offer protection against dusts, splashes). These should only be used once and then disposed of at the end of the visit. With the farmer's permission they can be left on the premises or be bagged and disposed of on return to the office (e.g. arrangements exist for HSL to collect used overalls and other disposable PPE/RPE from field offices for disposal);
- 6. If non-disposable overalls (e.g. cotton boiler type suits) are used they should not be used again until laundered;
- 7. Disposable gloves;
- 8. Appropriate footwear (e.g. wellington boots) and waterproof clothing. These must be cleaned and disinfected before entering the farm and again, where possible, at the end of the visit;
- 9. Close fitting goggles or other equipment that gives at least the same level of protection;
- 10. RPE will be necessary in certain circumstances, e.g. visits which require entry to buildings which contain poultry or their faecal matter. For simplicity, only FFP3 respirators will be issued. Disposable respirators should only be used once and then disposed of at the end of the visit. With the farmer's permission they can be left on the premises or be bagged and disposed of on return to the office. If non-disposable respirators have been used, then they should be treated as contaminated and be thoroughly cleaned before maintenance or storage - inspectors should closely follow the manufacturer's instructions and recommendations for maintenance, cleaning and disinfection of used non-disposable RPE;
- 11. All other equipment taken on the farm should be cleaned before arrival and on departure. Where possible equipment should be protected from contamination e.g. using plastic bags. Where equipment can be cleansed and disinfected this must be done before entry to the premises and again on departure.
13. The Agriculture & Food Sector will keep these biosecurity arrangements under review. It will also monitor and advise operational Band 1's/2's of any additional central guidance on animal disease control measures issued by DEFRA's Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) in respect of farm visits.
14. If a notifiable disease has been confirmed by the CVO and a restricted area or control zone has been declared, the status and extent of the area should be checked on the DEFRA website (www.defra.gov.uk). The status of an individual farm or premise within any control zone can also be checked on the DEFRA website (via a postcode search tool).
15. When restrictions are removed by DEFRA, visits to premises can be resumed provided appropriate biosecurity measures are taken as detailed above and in Appendix 1 and 2.
16. Guidance on the transport, storage and safe use of disinfectant (including equipment, procedures and first aid) are detailed in Appendix 5.