Biosecurity Education, how you train impacts success

By Abby Schuft, Ph.D., Poultry Extension Educator, University of Minnesota

As an extension educator, I want to ensure you have tools and resources to best support your farming business.  Since biosecurity is my expertise and compliance of biosecure protocols is a challenge everywhere in animal agriculture, I wondered a biosecurity education method could prove to be more successful in teaching biosecure protocols. If yes, then I would have a clearer direction for developing resources and training you as producers, who sometimes must train others.
The goal of my research was to count the number of errors committed during biosecure entry and exit processes and see if the errors were related to the education method used. In the end, the education method turned out not to be a predictor of the number errors research participants made during their entry into a simulated barn.  We did find, however, other information that can be applied to your farm and biosecurity plan today.  

Research participants learned and navigated their way through three biosecure entries, each with a unique protocol. Four to six weeks later, participants completed the procedures in each entry a second time. However, participants were expected to rely on their recall of the instructions from their first visit without  having another training opportunity.

You already know the method of how a person learned the protocols was not a significant predictor of how many errors were committed.  We did learn that participants made 1.4 times more errors during their entry on their second visit a few weeks later than they did during the first visit.  When exiting the barn, participants made 1.2 times more errors during the second visit than the first. While one error seems minimal and an increase of 0.4times more errors is quite low itself, this low number of errors can have an effect over time.  If one person makes one error per entry, multiply that by the number of times a that person enters per day, per week and per month.  The increase in errors over a lapse of time can exponentially increase the risk of disease introduction or spread.

Logically, a person can assume the more steps that are required of a person, the more room there is for errors.  Our research confirms this thought. Protocols that had more than three steps had 1.5 – 1.9 times more errors.

Primarily, the errors committed during the study can likely be fixed with initial training and retraining. Outerwear and personal items, such as hats/caps, jewelry, vest, and sweatshirts, were not removed.  This can easily be mitigated during training as an explicit instruction and should also be plainly explained in your LOS protocol.  Our instructions did not clearly state the expectation.

Surprising to me, 18% of the participants did not completely close the exterior door, and 23% did not close the door between the entry area and the barn. Most of these errors happened in the third room. This easily points to a structural problem with the doors that could have easily been addressed to improve the error rate. Additional errors included outside footwear crossing the LOS when a physical barrier was not present in the room and bare or stocking feet touching both sides of the LOS during the same entry.

Takeaways from this study are numerous and I hope to share all of our findings with you over the coming months. The important message today is two-fold. Keep your biosecure entry and exit protocols as simple as possible, while offering enough detail a new visitor can properly fulfill your expectations. Establish a system that fits your management and daily operations to correct fixable conditions that hinder proper biosecure entry and exit, such as structural challenges and initial training and eventual retraining.