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April 7, 2011

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Preventing harm on animal farms

The HSE has published updated guidance on how to prevent ill health from animal contact at agricultural visitor attractions.

Aimed at owners and managers of sites such as open farms, animal-petting enclaves, and agricultural shows, the guidance describes the measures duty-holders should take to protect visitors, along with their legal obligations to protect the health and safety of staff and volunteers.

Public visits to premises where livestock is present carry potential health risks, and micro-organisms such as E coli O157 can cause harm. But the risk of infection can be kept low by implementing a number of control measures.

These include: good general cleanliness around the premises; prevention of animal soiling on paths and walkways; careful transporting and storage of manure; separating animal contact and non-contact areas; provision of adequate hand-washing facilities; and proper supervision of animal contact and hand washing.

The guidance also gives advice on things to consider when undertaking a COSHH assessment. In addition, a supplementary sheet is provided for teachers and others who organise visits, to help them ensure that children do not become ill as a result of visits.

Farm-safety advisor for the National Farmers Union (NFU), Peter Garbutt, welcomed the guidance but pointed out that it is unusual for members of the public to be made ill as a result of contact with animals on farm visits.

He added: “The NFU and its members take the potential for ill health extremely seriously, and this document provides welcome further guidance on the best way to manage contact with animals to ensure that the millions of people who visit farms every year remember their day for all the right reasons.”

The guidance is available at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ais23.pdf

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