9 April 2020

Farms, animal welfare and social distancing – how does it work for farmers, vets and contractors?

The government issued specific advice to farms and vets on 7 April 2020, alongside a general update of guidance to employers and employees on coronavirus and how to minimize the risk to public health.

The advice, relevant to anyone visiting or working on farms, said:

Animal welfare and social distancing

“Farming and maintaining animal welfare are important, and can continue if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible.

If you provide services such as sheep shearing, sheep dipping and foot trimming to different farms, it is not possible for workers to stay 2 metres apart at all times.

You should communicate to all staff that they should wash their hands for 20 seconds or more, and more frequently than normal, and always when arriving at or leaving a farm or premises, or use hand sanitiser when they cannot wash their hands. They should be careful to avoid touching their face at all times.

You should arrange work so that you and colleagues can frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products. This should be done both during the working day and when moving between premises.”

Keep records of actions

Contemporaneous documentary evidence is the best evidence in defending health and safety enforcement now and future personal injury claims and criminal prosecutions in the future. So, vets, farms and other agricultural businesses should now be following the government advice and simultaneously recording, in writing, the steps they are taking to do so.

Engagement with the workforce is also vital during the maelstrom of coronavirus. The new government guidance can be used to explain the steps businesses are taking to ensure health and safety and reassure employees who are worried about coronavirus contamination at work.

Anyone in control of work who needs help in understanding what is required of them under the law, or in dealing with employee complaints about health and safety, should seek legal advice.

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About the Author
Ruth Sheret, Senior Associate

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