Covid Contingency Planning

With the Covid 19 pandemic now beginning to impact on farms especially as children are back in school, it is timely to consider your risk management plans for the inevitable issues that may occur on farm.

We are beginning to see a lot of businesses adversely impacted by staff having to self isolate or worse still having tested positive to the disease. How will you react if this happens ? Do you have a strategy for covering staff shortages ? Take time to think about this now as it can strike out of the blue and will cause mayhem if you are unsure of what needs doing.

The main issues will revolve around the following areas :
1. Getting cover for essential tasks. Prioritise which jobs are essential to carry out.

2. Where there are several people working on the farm, split them into smaller teams to operate on a rota and avoid mixing between teams. This is especially true where a business has multiple sites. People should work on their site only.

3. Allocate specific jobs and machines to people so as to minimise the need for cleaning down / sanitising and cross contamination.

4. Close staff rooms as this has been shown to be where most cross infection occurs and try to prevent staff congregating in enclosed spaces.

5. If two people are milking together, get them to pass each other in the pit “back to back” so lessening the likelihood of infection spread.

6. Ensure that everybody working on the farm have masks available and ensure there are good supplies of sanitising gels and soaps available for use through out the day.

7. If somebody has tested positive, ensure all equipment is steam cleaned and or wiped down with disinfectants that are effective prior to others using / working there.

8. Before they can return to work ensure that they have had a clear -ve test. All staff that may have been or are at risk of being infected should get a test rapidly ( this should be easy to organise as farmers and farm workers are “essential workers” ).

9. Anecdotally it may pay to get an influenza vaccine as this can help to ward off other diseases while heightening the overall immune system. If not already eligible, these vaccines can be obtained at a small cost in pharmacies and some supermarkets.

It will also pay to set up clear protocols on how the farm should be run in the situation that people succumb to the disease. This needs to be discussed and people made aware of the protocols in advance. A clear flow diagram can make the decisions to take more obvious

It will also pay to develop a policy statement to give to all staff at the earliest possible time so that the employers liabilities are clearly outlined and the individuals responsibilities to their staff colleagues and families are understood. A responsible attitude needs to be adopted outside the workplace as this can have repercussions to work. AHDB has a series of posters in various languages available for use on farm. By doing this the farmer has a right to discuss details with staff as it is the business policy.

Finally, it is worth remembering that in lock down, single staff members especially younger members of the team, may feel very isolated. For peoples’ mental wellbeing it is important that they do not get ignored or excessively isolated during the course of trying to deal with the problems that may arise. A balanced attitude must be taken in implementing a risk management plan, remembering we are all human.

To Discuss Further Information Contact Ian at ianbrowne@fcgagric.com or your local FCG Office.

Posted in Business Management, Environment.