Biosecurity practices for animal health: guidance for public sector staff

Management practices that collectively reduce the potential for the introduction or spread of animal disease-causing organisms onto and between farms.

Biosecurity principles

As outlined in biosecurity controls, the level of biosecurity control will vary from visit to visit. The kit you need will also vary but some basic biosecurity principles apply in all situations.

Planning the visit

It is good practice to discuss the visit with the occupier or manager beforehand particularly if you will be in direct contact with livestock or sampling at fish farms. However, sometimes that is not possible, for example, if you are carrying out an unannounced cross compliance inspection or investigating certain pollution incidents.

When planning the visit:

  1. try to establish if the visit will involve entering water upstream of a fish farm
  2. ensure all your equipment is clean and serviceable
  3. restrict the equipment taken onto the premises; take only what you need
  4. try to clarify the following points with the owner/manager before you visit unless it is unannounced:
  • will water be available? If required ask to have some water provided or carry a small supply
  • what parking facilities exist?
  • if premises have high health status, do they apply their own additional controls? 
  • are the premises under any restrictions?
  • where are livestock located? maybe agree a meeting place

Personal biosecurity

At low risk (level 1) visits you are likely to need only minimal biosecurity kit. This may be just suitable footwear which you can clean easily. Situations involving level 2 biosecurity and above will involve adequate cleansing and disinfecting of footwear at least.

Biosecurity kit for cleansing and disinfection

The actual clothing you use will depend on the tasks you need to carry out, the type of premises, the environment, the weather conditions etc.

All protective clothing should be capable of being disinfected unless it is disposable. If cleansing and disinfection is likely, you should carry the necessary equipment; see the following suggestions:

  • plastic storage box 
  • small supply of water (approx 5 litres)
  • approved disinfectant
  • boot tray or bucket
  • eye protection
  • protective gloves
  • hard brush
  • hoof pick
  • means of applying disinfectant, for example brush or a portable sprayer
  • hand sanitiser/wipes and paper towels
  • selection of re-sealable bags
  • bag ties

Cleansing and disinfection procedure

All staff visiting farm land, or premises where there is a possibility of contamination should carry appropriate disinfecting kit.

Some disinfectants can be harmful particularly if inhaled or in contact with skin and you should wear appropriate protective equipment such as gloves and eye protection when making up the disinfectant mixture.

Please follow the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended). 

Preparation and use

Mix and prepare the disinfectant in the open air or in a well-ventilated area; you can do this on location or in advance. Make sure you adhere to the dilution rates stated by the manufacturer.

Disinfectants are particularly toxic to aquatic ecosystems and, if not managed properly, risk polluting the water environment.

To minimise any pollution risk from run-off or splashes of washings and disinfectant, you should carry out the disinfection process on a well vegetated flat area at least 10 metres away from any surface water drains, watercourses, springs or wells.

Disinfectant is most effective at killing disease when applied to a clean surface. Make sure surfaces to be disinfected are clear of mud, soil, faeces, etc. by first washing in a water bath or hosing down if necessary.

Once clean, spray the boot/sole or equipment with disinfectant solution until it runs off. Alternatively, dip boots in disinfectant.

Work the solution in using a hand held brush, brushing away from the face and eyes.

Follow the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) risk assessment instructions for the product you use. You should then rinse off the disinfectant solution with clean water before drying.

Please observe any specific contact times and make sure you do not allow disinfectants or washings to enter any clean surface water drain or watercourse.

Vehicle biosecurity

Your vehicle should be clean prior to each visit. This does not mean it needs to be completely washed or ‘showroom clean’, just that it is free from any animal faeces and accumulated mud. Please pay particular attention to the tyres and wheel arches.

Consider where you park the vehicle and ideally park off site if you can.

Where you cannot park off site, try to park on a hard standing and avoid any areas of contamination. For example, run-off from livestock pens, slurry and so on, or areas where livestock can access.

If using an off-road vehicle, try to avoid driving through fields that have, or have recently had, livestock in them or where manure or slurry has been recently spread.

Efforts to keep the vehicle clean and avoid areas where livestock have access will minimise the need to use disinfectants.

If disinfectants are used, rinse or wash the disinfected areas with clean water once the recommended contact time (see product label) has passed. Ensure that any run-off does not enter any watercourses or surface water drains.

Equipment biosecurity

Equipment includes anything taken onto the site to allow you to carry out your task.

Make sure all equipment is clean and fit for purpose and that any equipment likely to become contaminated is capable of being cleaned and disinfected after the visit (unless disposable).

Special circumstances

The procedures described here should be sufficient to deal with the majority of routine visits to farms, farm land, woodland, etc. but certain sites have specific requirements.

Intensive pig or poultry sites

Some commercial poultry and pig units have particularly stringent biosecurity standards.

This is an industry rather than statutory requirement and a breach of these standards may significantly impact on the farm business.

The owner may require you to have been free from contact with the species for up to five days before you start work. Showering in and out of the premises and using protective clothing provided is not uncommon.

Aquaculture/fish farms

There are many serious contagious diseases of fish which can threaten both farmed and wild stocks.

As a precaution, to minimise the risk of transmitting disease, you must follow disinfection procedures when you visit fish farm premises.

The same basic biosecurity principles which apply to farmland also apply to fish farms and aquaculture units but you may need some extra equipment and have to take extra precautions to further reduce the risk of spreading disease:

  • try to find out the disease status of the fish farm before you visit. If possible avoid sites with notifiable diseases
  • if requested, use personal protection equipment supplied by the operator
  • if you use a survey boat, you may need equipment such as a pressure washer, hose pipe and electrical cable
  • see Annex B for the procedure to disinfect survey boats
  • when sampling, try to begin sampling downstream and work upstream
  • exercise particular care when working at a fish farm intake in view of increased risk of disease transmission at this point

Public interaction

Where taking members of the public onto farmland such as for example on ranger led walks, appropriate biosecurity controls as described in this document should be made, in most circumstances this is likely to be limited to cleaning and disinfecting footwear.

Members of the public are not required to follow this guidance, however if practical, they should be invited or given the opportunity to do so.

Where single excursions or visits will be crossings farm boundaries, it is recognised that it will not normally be possible for staff to disinfect footwear before entering each farm.

As a minimum, members of the public are expected to follow the guidelines stated in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code in regards to responsible access to the countryside.



Telephone: 0300 244 4000 (Central Enquiry Unit)

Scottish Government
Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate
Saughton House


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