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Survey identifies gaps in employee biosecurity practices

22 June 2017
Zoetis

For biosecurity to be effective, everyone working within the farm needs to understand and comply with the defined protocols. In reality, a person’s attitude can make or break the outcome, so it’s important that the on-farm staff view biosecurity as a priority.

To take a deeper look, Michael Mardesen, veterinary student at Iowa State University, designed a study to assess the biosecurity knowledge, compliance and attitudes of English- and Spanish-speaking farm workers that included managers and technicians.1

The study involved 14 breed-to-wean hog farms in the Carthage Professional Swine Management System that had at least three English- and three Spanish-speaking employees.

Mardesen developed a survey that used open-ended questions, 1-to-5 scoring and multiple-choice questions. A trained proctor conducted the surveys verbally in the employee’s first language. The survey also was designed so that the employee could assess his or her own biosecurity compliance, as well as that of fellow workers. The open-ended questions were designed to reflect an individual’s biosecurity knowledge. In all, 73 employees were surveyed.

The results showed that compliance and attitudes were similar across all farms and that employees viewed biosecurity protocols as highly important.

Notably, individuals scored themselves higher on biosecurity compliance than they scored their peers. Some areas scoring at the lower end of the scale were rodent-control maintenance, cleaning up feed spills, supply-entry procedures and properly loading the UV-chamber for lunch entry.

In the study, 65.9% of the Spanish-speaking employees answered more unprompted questions, compared to 42.5% of English-speaking workers. However, Mardesen pointed out that when employees were prompted, more than 90% answered correctly for both groups.

Farm managers scored higher, 60.6%, than technicians did at 49.8%. Also, employees who had worked on the farm for 36 months scored higher (59.3%) than those employed 12 months or less (48%).
“Such surveys can be valuable tools in identifying gaps in employee understanding and training,” Mardesen said. “The production system can then better identify if biosecurity challenges are based on knowledge, compliance or attitude, and adjust training or management accordingly. It also would help reduce training costs and time.”

1 Mardesen M, et al. Assessment of Knowledge, Compliance and Attitudes of English and Spanish Speaking Farm Employees Towards Biosecurity Practices. Student Seminar, the 48th American Association of Swine Veterinarians’ Annual Meeting. 2017;57-58.

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