Defra group launches new personal biosecurity guidance for field work
A group of Defra group volunteers has developed a new personal biosecurity standard that will soon be adopted by field workers. This will help to minimise the risks of accidentally introducing or spreading biosecurity threats in their work.
Biosecurity threats include pests, diseases, parasites, infected, harmful or invasive plants, and other harmful invasive non-native species. These can all have damaging environmental and economic impacts when introduced to new environments.
The problems caused by invasive non-native species currently cost the UK on average £1.8 billion every year to manage. Many of us are passionate about protecting our environment, and this should also mean being passionate about biosecurity (see below for advice on how everyone can help).
Implementing the biosecurity standard is an important part of Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which sets out Defra group’s goals for leaving the environment in a better state than we found it. In line with this a number of Defra group strategies, including the Tree Health Resilience Strategy among others, have a strong focus on biosecurity.
Biosecurity is also an important theme in the Defra group Outcome Delivery Plan, which outlines what we seek to achieve together as a group in 2021/22.
Leading the way
The best practice guidance will apply to those delivering field-based activities for Defra group, including staff, contractors and volunteers.
It has been developed by a team of cross Defra group volunteers from several organisations which carry out field work.
It takes into account that many organisations already have excellent biosecurity practices, and aims to ensure that all relevant parts of the group adopt a minimum standard of personal biosecurity.
The standard has the strong support of Lord Benyon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity).
Lord Benyon said:
“In Government we are committed to doing all we can to reinforce our biosecurity practices. We have earned a global reputation for setting high standards of biosecurity across the spectrum of animal and plant health and, more recently, invasive species.
“However, the unprecedented increase in both the volume and speed of trade and travel continues to increase the risk of the accidental introduction of new invasive species, pests and diseases. The establishment, continuation or strengthening of personal biosecurity is essential to minimising the risk of these threats and it is right that Defra group leads the way in this area.”
The Defra project sponsor Gareth Baynham-Hughes, Director, Animal and Plant Health and Welfare, added:
“I was extremely pleased to be asked to sponsor this important project as biosecurity is an area that I’m passionate about. I want to thank the project team for the excellent work they’ve done, despite the challenges of the pandemic and EU transition, and especially given they’re volunteers with demanding day jobs.
“I’m looking forward to the start of the pilot and then more Defra group organisations getting involved.”
Defra group roll out
Defra group organisations will roll out the standard in a phased way, with a pilot shortly due to start with the National Forest Company, Broads Authority and some parts of Forestry Commission.
Colleagues in other organisations due to sign up to the standard will find out more as they reach their organisation’s participation date, once agreed with leadership teams.
The organisations which are currently signed up are:
- Animal and Plant Health Agency
- Broads Authority
- Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
- Drinking Water Inspectorate
- Environment Agency
- Forestry Commission
- Forest Research
- GB Non-native Species Secretariat
- Joint Nature Conservation Committee
- Marine Management Organisation
- Natural England
- National Forest Company
- Rural Payments Agency
Resources and support
Work is under way to ensure that people who undertake field activities have access to the kit they need to comply with the standard, including the recommended cleaning products for disinfecting boots and clothing, for example.
In addition to the guidance document detailing the best practice standard, there will be an accompanying training package. This will initially involve virtual or face-to-face (when possible) learning, with the ultimate aim of launching an online course.
There are also plans to create a Biosecurity Hub, an external site where the guidance training materials and other useful resources will be available to everyone, including contractors and volunteers without access to internal systems.
The project intends to create a network of Biosecurity Champions across the participating organisations to support the rollout of the standard and training. Full support will be provided to help them deliver this important role. More information will be shared (including how to sign up as a champion) in local communications as each organisation approaches its participation date. To register interest in finding out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How everyone can help
We are all custodians of the natural world around us - even if this standard doesn’t apply to you professionally, you can still help with personal actions:
- Keep any boats, clothing, footwear and equipment used in water free of invasive species – remember to Check Clean Dry after use.
- Keep It Clean! Clean your boots before you go out into woodlands and the countryside, and when you come home again.
- Be Plant Wise and don't let your garden, pond or aquarium plants enter the wild. Buy responsibly by sourcing plants from reputable nurseries and suppliers as it’s much more likely they practise good biosecurity.
- Take care of your pets; never release them or allow them to escape into the wild. It’s cruel and could harm other wildlife.
- Look out for invasive non-native species or any unusual symptoms whilst out and about. Good sources of advice and information include the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat, Forest Research, Royal Horticultural Society website and the UK Plant Health portal website. If you are suspicious about any symptoms in trees report them to the Forestry Commission using the TreeAlert website.
- If you enjoy being outside why not join a Local Action Group working on invasive species management? You could get your team together and use your volunteering days to help tackle an infestation.
Find out more
The guidance and details about how organisations will join the standard will be shared locally as each is ready to come on board. The guidance document will be made available after the pilot scheme as some adjustments may be made to it after the evaluation has been completed.
Friday 4 June 2021