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The impact of COVID-19 on PPE supplies for agriculture

6th May 2020 / By Alistair Driver

NFU farm safety and transport adviser Tom Price has written a comprehensive article about the impact of COVID-19 on personal protective equipment (PPE) on farms. 

Many activities in farming require PPE to protect the health and safety of workers – across a wider range of food production sectors, it is estimated that there is a need for 200,000 FFP2 and FFP3 face masks each week, not even taking into account the current situation, where demand is inevitably higher. 

Mr Price said there is a shortage of PPE, not just in the UK but globally, with most PPE used in the UK is imported, with the majority supplied by China and much of the production centred on Wuhan and Hubei.

The Chinese outbreak, followed by the global spread of the virus, with export bans imposed on PPE, further limited supplies to the UK, he added.

"Demand for all types of PPE in the UK and in particular for FFP2 and FFP3 masks has massively increased as a result of COVID-19 and the need to protect front line workers in hospitals and other care settings," Mr Price said, adding that the disruption to the global PPE supply chain has caused wide uncertainty over supply lead times.

"A number of the larger PPE distributors stopped taking orders from new customers in March or orders above a normal business as usual level in order to avoid stock piling and unfairness to other customers."

The government has taken significant action to ensure that PPE is used correctly where most needed and in sourcing supplies of PPE to the health service and other care providers by:

  • Publishing guidance on the appropriate use of PPE in health care and other settings
  • Establishing a dedicated logistics system to supply the health care sector
  • Looking to secure future supply both from imports and the creation of a UK based manufacturing capability.

The article, which can be viewed here, goes on to provide information on areas like what to do if stocks run low, alternative supplies, homemade masks and employers' obligtations. 

For example, there is advice on conserving stocks, including:

  • Only providing PPE to workers who need it
  • Issuing PPE specific to the level of risk e.g. only use FFP2 masks where the risk assessment has identified that FFP2 is required
  • Maximising the use life of PPE by following manufacturer user checks, cleaning and storage instructions
  • Reminding staff of the reasons why PPE is used, the need to use PPE appropriately and the need to treat equipment that is in short supply with respect.

The NFU was expecting to send a survey around to members to gauge more information on th situation this week. We will circulate details when we have them. 

PPE Exchange 

For anyone having difficulties sourcing PPE, a new website has been drawn to our attention that may be helpful: www.ppeexchange.co.uk

Free to join and free to use, the PPE Exchange is supported by the CBI and allows organisations to register their urgent PPE requirements on a national database where it can be matched with suppliers looking for buyers.

Further background is available here: https://www.cbi.org.uk/articles/accessing-and-providing-ppe/

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