Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Biosecurity basics: Utility service contractors

July 3, 2014
Biosecurity sign on gate

Well placed signage can really help to raise awareness of farm visitors to biosecurity, what it means and how they can help.

Preventing the arrival and establishment of new diseases, pests and weeds is just as important as controlling those already present on a property.

People moving between farms and regions can unintentionally spread pests on vehicles, equipment, boots and clothing. The most obvious risks are disease causing pathogens carried in soil and plant material.

A recent survey indicated that in the past three months between 40 and 44 percent of all broadacre producers had been visited by mining operators or utility service contractors to do maintenance work or to access utilities such as power, water, gas, or phone infrastructure.

Visits by contractors present a potential biosecurity risk because they move from farm-to-farm and region-to-region. But between 30 and 56 per cent of producers did nothing to control the biosecurity risks associated with utility contractors who access their properties.

That leaves a lot of farms potentially vulnerable. As pests and diseases can go unnoticed for extended periods of time before detected on a property, service providers may unknowingly spread pests between the properties they visit via their clothing, equipment and vehicles.

As a producer, you have a role to play in protecting your farm and region from biosecurity threats. There simple things you can do to significantly reduce any risk.

Well placed signage can really help to raise awareness of farm visitors to biosecurity, what it means and how they can help. Signs at entrances should direct visitors to contact the owner or farm manager to formally register their presence, before entering the property. The sign should include important contact details (home telephone number, mobile number and/or UHF channel).

Ask contractors to stay on formed roads or lane ways wherever possible to limit the spread of pests and weeds.
It can be impractical to stop all vehicle and equipment movements on and off the property, but using dedicated farm vehicles, washing down machinery on concrete pads and denying access to dirty machinery can reduce the spread of unwanted pests around your property.

Limit the risk of contractors introducing new pests onto your property, by requiring all contractors’ vehicles and equipment to be cleaned before starting work on your property. Provide a suitable wash-down bay to complete this task.

To ensure your property does not become the source of pest infections for others, you have a responsibility to inform contractors of any declared or notifiable pests already present on your farm. This will enable them to clean down properly or take other appropriate actions.

Remember to keep a record of who has been on your property and where they came from. Being able to ‘trace-back’ and ‘trace-forward’ can be important in the limiting the extent of a disease outbreak or pest incursion.

If you suspect a new pest or disease, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 or the Emergency Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

You can buy a sign, or visit the Records page for a farm gate sign template and a visitor register.