Coronavirus: Survey to assess shortage of dust masks

Farmers affected by a shortage of dust masks are being asked to complete a survey to assess the extent of the problem.

Many farmers have reported difficulties getting hold of face masks because the coronavirus pandemic has seen a surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE).

See also: Podcast: Shortage of dust masks ahead of harvest

The survey has been launched by the NFU – although it is open to all farmers, not just union members affected by shortages.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “Since the outbreak of coronavirus in the UK, there has been a disruption to the supply of personal protective equipment across all industries.

“We are very aware that the priority is, and must continue to be,  providing PPE to those people on the frontline of our health service as they work to protect the public and overcome this disease.

“Food and farming is a vital industry, working to supply the nation with safe, traceable food that has been farmed with care. Like many businesses, farmers use PPE in day-to-day operations to help keep workers safe and healthy.

Minimum disruption

“It is important that any disruption in supply of PPE to agriculture is kept to a minimum and the NFU is in discussion with the government and stakeholders about how to do this.”

Mr Roberts said the NFU was continuing to monitor the situation and asking farmers to use PPE appropriately where it’s needed and review stocks frequently. Any orders should be made to a reputable supplier to avoid scams, he added.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said there was no change to expectations for providing PPE and respiratory protective equipment (RPE) for protecting people at work, as set out in HSE guidance.

Make arrangements

“HSE expects businesses to make the appropriate arrangements for sourcing PPE/RPE from their usual supplier or alternative suppliers, as necessary,” it said.

Farmers with suppliers who had run out of PPE should find other sources of supply, and check they were efficiently managing the provision use of PPE within their farm business. They could also use alternative equipment with at least the same level of protection – such as RPE with an assigned protection factor of 40 instead of 20.

Where PPE was required, the HSE said it is a necessary control measure to comply with the law and reducing protection would put workers at risk of ill-health.