Dairy farmers issued Covid-19 guidance to keep workers safe

RABDF has issued staff management guidelines as coronavirus cases continue to soar
RABDF has issued staff management guidelines as coronavirus cases continue to soar

Dairy farmers have been issued a set of guidelines to help the sector safeguard their workforce as cases of Covid-19 continue to increase in the UK.

Total coronavirus cases in the UK have nearly reached the 30,000 mark, as of Thursday 2 April. Over 2,300 deaths have been recorded.

Looking to keep the dairy sector safe, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has issued out eleven tips which set out ways farmers can protect their staff.

It helps businesses identify who should and shouldn’t be working, and how working practices can be adapted to maintain social distancing.

RABDF chairman Peter Alvis said that employers have a 'legal and moral obligation' to make sure government guidelines are followed and staff remains safe.

"That is why we have produced some guidelines on how farmers can best protect their staff during this difficult time," he said.

“Communication with staff during this time is vital and we would urge every dairy employer to engage with their staff now if they haven’t already done so, and work with them to reinforce the rules around social distancing and good hygiene.”

The top tips are focused around identifying staff that could be at risk, communicating with them and monitoring their health.

Social distancing and providing good hygiene facilities is also advised, as is providing staff with proof they are a key worker.

The RABDF urges dairy farmers to change working practices, check insurance and minimise outside contact with others.

How can I protect my workforce during the outbreak?

1. Identify staff that could be at risk

If you haven’t done so get your staff members to undertake a medical questionnaire and go through it with them to assess whether they are fit to work.

The government has issued guidance that strongly advises people who are at higher risk of catching coronavirus to take strict measures and to stay at home.

2. Communicate to staff

Write to your staff and let them know of any rule changes as well as reinforcing the rules around social distancing and good hygiene.

It is important staff buy-in to any rule changes, so if they are made aware at the start of why rules are brought in and are included in discussions this can help.

3. Monitor staff health

As a minimum anyone displaying symptoms which could be caused by coronavirus should be sent home immediately where they should self-isolate for 7 days as a minimum or until they feel better.

Some dairy farms employing large numbers many wish to go as far as taking the temperatures of staff as they enter and exit the farm. Anyone with a temperature 37.7C or above should be sent home.

4. Maintain social distancing

The government's advice is to maintain a distance of at least 2m from other people. This means farm workers should not be sharing lifts if they do not live in the same household.

Stagger break times to reduce the number of people in close proximity, and ask the staff to eat their lunch in their car if break times can’t be staggered.

Don’t share transport on the farm such as two in a tractor cab.

5. Provide good hygiene facilities

Make sure you have suitable hand washing facilities on the farm where employees can wash their hands with soap and hot water as well as dry them.

If this isn’t possible, they should be provided with alcohol wipes or gel.

6. Provide staff with proof they are a key worker

Issue each staff member with a piece of letter headed paper explaining who they work for and what their jobs are just in case they are stopped by the police. This is to minimise any confrontation.

7. Change working practices

Reinforce the importance of social distancing in places such as the milking parlour. If you can’t change working practices to accommodate this then it is strongly advised you provide extra PPE equipment such as disposable gloves, face masks, protective face shields, and disposable coveralls. These must be disposed of correctly.

8. Minimise outside contact

Suspend all unnecessary visits onto the farm. Unless it is absolutely critical then third parties should not be coming onto the farm. Where they do have to come on make sure social distancing is maintained.

9. Check your insurance

Check with your insurance company to see whether you are covered if your milk isn’t collected. If you don’t have insurance then it is worth looking to see whether you can get any.

NFU Mutual has said it will cover customers who already have uncollected milk insurance.

10. Sourcing additional cover if your workforce becomes ill

As cases of coronavirus rise, we will likely see staff shortages as sickness rates increase. This means extra resource will be required

Any new member of staff must be inducted correctly and must be made aware of the health and safety procedures on the farm. It is important to uphold health and safety even during these challenging times.

11. Seeking help

These are challenging times and sometimes we need to speak out for help. There are a whole host of agricultural specific charities that are open even during the outbreak. You can contact RABDF on 02476 639 317.

Other useful numbers include the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), which offers financial support, practical care and guidance to farming people of all ages, including farmers, farmworkers and dependants. They can be contacted on 0808 281 9490

The Farming Community Network (FCN) offers free, confidential, pastoral and practical support. Their helpline is open from 7am-11pm. Tel: 03000 111 999

RSABI is RABI's sister charity in Scotland. They provide emotional, practical and financial support to people in the agricultural sector. Tel: 0300 111 4166

Samaritans is a 24-hour confidential emotional support service for anyone in the UK and Ireland who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, or are at risk of suicide. Tel: 116123