COVID-19 is having a profound effect on life at present and is affecting the way individuals and businesses are living and working. Roger Pile, Estates Manager at EPC-UK, explains how our farms are coping during these challenging times and the measures that have been put into place to protect the farming team:
At EPC-UK, we have always strived to perform our operations using a ‘safety first’ approach and before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, adopted a Safety 365 protocol which encouraged workers to; ‘Look out for others’, ‘Get involved’ and ‘Think safety’.
Responding to social distancing recommendations made by the Government in recent weeks, we have further enhanced our safety procedures. Both our EPC-UK farm estates – at Bramble Island, Essex, and Alfreton, Derbyshire – remain in operation, growing crops to help feed the country; so the moment the nationwide lock down was announced, we devised plans to ensure our employees would stay safe at work.
The seasonal calendar means we have a very busy time ahead on both farms. To ensure our workers’ safe operations, we have devised a ‘safety pause’ procedure using the radios inside the tractors.
The measures help to confirm the presence of only one person in the farm office at a time, who after completing work, must wipe down and clean used equipment ready for the next. We’ve also introduced a `one operator – one tractor policy’ and placed an antibacterial sanitizer pack inside each vehicle.
Water containers and soap dispensers have also been brought on board, so operators can – even while in the middle of a field – wash their hands regularly throughout the day.
With regard to getting around the farms, we’ve introduced a `one person – one pick-up’ policy, a practice that has led to farm staff using bikes to cross the estates from farm to tractor.
Following the wettest winter on record, the challenges our farms are facing at present are considerable; weather conditions have meant that we were unable to plant all the winter wheat, and we have significant quantities of spring seeding to achieve including crops of spring barley, sugar beet and potatoes – not to mention the routine seasonal work of applying fertilizer and sprays on our wheat and oil seed rape crops.
However, safety remains our ultimate priority, so by applying our social distancing and hygiene procedures, and by benefitting from the support of the wider EPC-UK team, we have built the necessary confidence to work through this universally challenging time.