17 April 1998

DIP LICENCES: BACKGROUND

The latest in a series of changes to the rules on sheep

dipping has been published by MAFF. Peter Grimshaw

reports on what this means for flock managers

EXPERIENCED and qualified flock managers have nothing to fear from new tests under the Certificate of Competence Scheme that authorises them to buy and use sheep dip. Professional shepherds may even find they can gain from the new rules. But there is some concern that when synthetic pyrethroid products are brought into the scheme, it may leave many farmers unqualified to buy effective dips.

The 13,000 farmers and employees who already hold a Certificate of Competence are unaffected by the new test arrangements, and can continue to buy and use any MAFF-approved dip chemicals. In January, however, farm minister Jack Cunning-ham announced his intention to include SP dips in the scheme.

Fears about the health risks from using OP dips, and because they have hitherto been freely available, thousands of farmers have switched to SP products. Now those who do not already have a Certificate of Competence are unlikely to be able to buy SPs, probably after the end of this year – although no date has been announced.

No changes this year

So nothing changes this year, and it will also be possible to buy stocks for next seasons use. Eventually, however, all producers will have to gain the Certificate of Competence if they intend to use conventional dipping methods. There are fears that some may be tempted not to bother.

But its easy to get all the information needed to qualify for a Certificate of Competence, thanks to a newly-produced MAFF leaflet, Sheep Dipping. More than 80,000 farmers should receive it, and with existing dip manufacturers statutory label instructions, it is intended to provide all that is needed to pass the revised tests.

"All we are testing is whether people can apply the details on those two bits of paper to their own farm procedures," says National Proficiency Tests Council senior technical officer, Jim Wilson. The NPTC is the official assessing body for the Scheme.

However, although there is theoretically no need for formal training to gain the Certificate of Competence, the NPTC encourages it.

"I would expect colleges and training groups to make such training available," says Mr Wilson. He stresses that someone different from the training provider must do the testing.

The new tests are intended for those with no former sheep dipping certification, including self-employed people, although there is a new section that is intended to encourage and assist qualification as Craftsman Shepherd.

While the MAFF leaflet was being produced, training provisions of the scheme were being revised, prompting fears that training criteria would become more complicated and costly, and even that everyone responsible for and involved in dipping would have to be retrained.

This is not so, says Mr Wilson.He explains there are still three parts to the tests. Under the old scheme, parts one and two were written papers, with a practical test for part three. Under the new scheme, part one will be a verbal test at the dip site, part two will be written, and part three will be practical, but different from before. The first two are compulsory, and the practical test is still optional.

Test modified

Representations from the NFU and NSA also resulted in a modification that allows a shepherd to take only part one, the verbal test. This provides a letter of recognition, but not the full certificate that would allow that person to buy dip, manage the dipping operation and dispose of the used dip and containers.

Launching the new leaflet in mid-March, HSE chief agricultural inspector David Mattey emphasised there was more to dipping than choosing the right equipment and clothing.

"Farmers have a responsibility under the law to show that people doing the dipping are adequately trained and competent," he said. "We recommend that the person in charge of the dip bath holds the National Proficiency Test Councils Cert-ificate of Competence in safe use of sheep dips."

Criticism

The OP Information Network condemned the new document even before it was published. OPIN chairman Elizabeth Sigmund said it still failed to answer many questions, and particularly failed to emphasise the dangers from inhalation.

The former, two-part Certifi-cate of Competence cost £49. Even at the new, higher cost, the NSAs John Thorley points out that proof of competence is a useful insurance against accidental liability, as well as making such accidents much less likely. &#42

THECERTIFICATESCHEME

This was set up in 1994 in order to increase awareness of the need to take proper precautions when dipping sheep with OPs. The rules for handling the dip chemicals follows the COSH&#42 principle that all involved in dipping should know the risks and the precautions they should take.

The new rules set out in a recent MAFF leaflet stress that law requires proper training for everyone involved in dipping, whether or not controlled chemicals are used. This includes self-employed people.

Synthetic pyrethroid dips are to be included in the dipping Certificate of Competence scheme alongside current OP requirements, although no firm date has been announced for introduction of the new legislation.

THEASSESSMENT

&#8226 Part 1: A verbal practical test, one-to-one with the assessor, held in the vicinity of a sheep dip. Cost: £49. Covers awareness and attitude to safety, knowledge of product label and data sheet, personal protection equipment, making up dip and top-up liquid, mechanics of the dip and collecting and drainage pens, environmental risks and disposal of spent dip, animal welfare knowledge, personal safety procedures and records required.

&#8226 Part 2: A short-answer written paper which can be done anywhere and at any time. This section cannot be taken without Part 1. Combined cost: £79. Covers details of the general aspects in Part 1.

(Both the above are required to confer statutory right to buy dip chemicals, at a total cost of £79.)

&#8226 Part 3: Entirely optional, this is a practical test that meets Agricultural Wages Board criteria for Craftsmen Shepherd Grade. It will involve dipping sheep and will take about 45min.

Cost will vary according to the number of candidates tested and location, but is expected to be rather more than for each of the other tests. As well as the general items in Part 1, it will require more detailed knowledge of storage, dip preparation and supervision, weather effects on dipping and suitability of sheep for dipping. There will be a practical dip of 15 sheep, to include ensuring proper immersion and subsequent checking.