1. ‘Bird Breeder’s Lung’
Initial, short term indications that you may be allergic to dust from the feathers and droppings of birds are tightness in the chest, regular headaches and breathlessness. These symptoms will disappear if you avoid exposure to the allergens, however if you do not take measures to protect yourself, long term serious illness may develop. Disorders such as asthma, bronchitis and ‘Bird Breeder’s Lung’ are potentially life-threatening and pose a risk to your employment. As an employer, you must supply protective equipment to your staff to ensure compliance to health and safety regulations.
2. Lone working
Considerations must be paid to the employee who is expected to work alone. These should include; assessing the risk of violence, manual handling, medical suitability to be alone and specific environmental risks associated with the duties. In addition to these considerations, procedures should be put in place for keeping in touch with supervisors and raising the alarm should it be necessary. It would be advantageous to avoid lone working conditions, but where this is not possible, emergency procedures should planned, practiced and regularly evaluated.
3. Gas brooders
Where gas brooders are put in place a suitable and adequate air flow and ventilation system must also be in place. There is a reasonable risk to bird breeders of carbon monoxide poisoning when gas brooders are in use. The Health and Safety Executive issued specific warnings on this risk: http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2007/gnnsco04007.htm. Flame failure devices should also be inspected and reported if any defects are found. These devices prevent the escape of un-burned fuel into the environment, reducing the risk of ignition and suffocation.
4. Lyme disease
Lyme disease is contracted via a bite from an infected tick. The initial symptoms are treated easily with antibiotics and can identified as a faint ring shaped rash around the site of the bite, developing into intermittent flu-like symptoms. Left untreated Lyme disease can become a very serious illness.
5. Weil’s disease – leptospirosis
This illness is contracted from contact between cuts and abrasions and the infected urine of rats. High risk areas include feed stores, hay and straw storage facilities and farm bird enclosures. Symptoms to be aware of include feverishness and headaches and left untreated may be fatal. Employers should make all staff aware of the hazards and issue leptospirosis medical contact cards to all staff that are at risk.
6. Off road transport
Training should be provided, particularly if the terrain is steep sloped or especially rough, or when the employee will be towing loads. All safety equipment must be provided by the employer and meet specific standards. It is the responsibility of the employee to make use of it, for example wearing seatbelts and helmets. Vehicles must be kept in good working order and comply to licensing laws and when trailing loads behind vehicles such as quad bikes, the employee must not exceed the safety guidelines provided in training.
7. Steam cleaners and pressure washers
Electrical equipment that use water pose risks of electrocution to the operator. Steam cleaners and pressure washers should be used with a circulating current earth monitoring device, or a residual current device (RCD) sometimes called an ELCB. These devices should be fitted at the mains supply point, protected by a waterproof cover. Regular inspections of the earthing devices, cables, switches and connectors should be made, checking they are watertight and un-damaged. PAT checks should be up to date and certified with date stickers on all electrical appliances.
8. Electrical safety
Other than making sure PAT check procedures are followed, the user of electrical equipment must ensure the appliance is fit for purpose – that it is suitable for use in the chosen environment. It is the responsibility of the user to perform visual checks over the cables, switches and connections before each use and that any defects are reported immediately.
9. Personal protection equipment (PPE)
Clothing offering protection from the weather and from specific hazards such as guns and respiratory illness legally required to be provided by you as an employer. If the staff are to be working in exposed environments such as moorland, emergency survival equipment should also be provided. All PPE must be kept in good condition and stored correctly and any instructions for the use must be followed.
The law on safe use of guns sates that ‘employers and people who conduct an undertaking involving the use of guns have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to take all reasonably practicable measures so that no one is put at risk’. The safe use of guns is imperative and is detailed in the Health and Safety executive’s document: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ais43.pdf.
The essential reason for highlighting these main points is to make you, as an employer of farm and estate staff aware of the main risks your employees could be under, when working for you. It is also essential that your business is compliant to Health and Safety law at all times to protect the safety and wellbeing of your staff.
The risks detailed in this blog are not the only risks associated with rearing farm birds. The Health and Safety Executive Document, ‘Game Keeping and Deer Farming’, goes into greater detail and can be found here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg177.pdf