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Defra Group Personal Biosecurity Guidance

Last edited: 22 March 2022
Author: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

PDF version


  • Summary
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Biosecurity measures
  • Prior to arrival 
  • On site
  • Biosecurity risk assessment 
  • Equipment 
  • Multi-threat sites
  • Annex A: Participating organisations further information
  • Annex B: Example biosecurity risk assessment 
  • Sources


The Defra Group Personal Biosecurity Project aims to raise awareness of the importance of personal biosecurity in curbing the introduction and spread of pests, diseases, parasites, and other harmful invasive non-native species (from here on referred to collectively as ‘biosecurity threats’).

Personal biosecurity refers to the measures taken by an individual to minimise the risk of introducing and spreading biosecurity threats via potentially contaminated clothing, personal equipment, and tools.

This guidance document has been produced as part of the project and sets out the detail of the minimum standard of personal biosecurity that all staff, contractors, and volunteers working on behalf of the participating Defra group organisations should adhere to when carrying out fieldwork or are otherwise at risk of coming into contact with biosecurity threats through their activities.

This guidance is intended to provide a broad overview of the basic personal biosecurity measures that should be carried out in order to reduce the risk of introducing and spreading biosecurity threats across the wide range of environments that Defra group staff, contractors, and volunteers may encounter.

It is not intended to supersede any existing, more comprehensive biosecurity guidance currently provided by the relevant regulatory organisation overseeing a particular environment or biosecurity threat. Participating organisations without existing biosecurity guidance are free to tailor this guidance to make it more comprehensive to suit their needs. If this guidance is tailored, the measures set out within should be used to provide a baseline for the minimum standard of biosecurity to be adhered to.


Our natural environment is under threat from pests, diseases, parasites, and other harmful invasive non-native species. Over the years we have witnessed the unfortunate implications that these threats can have in all corners of our countryside. From foot and mouth in cattle to ash dieback in trees, these pests and pathogens have a huge economic and biological cost. We must all take responsibility for our own personal biosecurity to reduce the risk of biosecurity threats spreading, and to safeguard the landscapes that we love.

The Government highlighted enhancing biosecurity as one of its key targets in the 25 Year Environment Plan. We will protect our wildlife, livestock, plants and trees by reducing the risk of introducing new biosecurity threats. To prevent their introduction and spread, we have progressively strengthened regulations and targeted our resources to minimise the chance of environmental threats from entering the UK. In recent years, we have developed strategies for Plant Biosecurity, Non-native Species, Aquatic Animal Health and Wildlife Health. These follow a risk-based approach founded on world leading scientific research, combined with vigilant surveillance and inspection regimes.

Protecting our borders is of vital importance, and we all need to make sure we play our part. Defra staff, contractors and volunteers all need to ensure that if they have any risk of coming into contact with biosecurity threats, they adhere to appropriate biosecurity standards. By implementing simple but necessary personal biosecurity measures at a Defra-wide level, we will increase our ability to protect our farmland and natural environments, as well as set an example for stakeholders and members of the public to follow.

Thank you for your support in this campaign.

Richard Benyon

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity


Pests, diseases, parasites, and other harmful invasive non-native species have been introduced to the UK from around the world and numbers continue to grow each year. The impacts of these biosecurity threats are felt across a wide range of important habitats where native plants and animals, along with livestock and crops, are harmed through disease, predation, and increased competition for resources.

Once new biosecurity threats are introduced, it can be extremely costly or even impossible to eradicate them. They also impact on the economy through damage to natural resource and infrastructure. The problems caused by invasive non-native species currently cost the UK on average £1.7 billion every year to manage.

Biosecurity threats can easily be introduced to the UK and spread between sites via the movement of infected plants, animals, or contaminated material, including water, organic material, and soil. This movement may be via natural pathways, such as through watercourses, wildlife migration, or wind dispersal, but more frequently it is a result of human activity, for example the movement of contaminated clothing, tools, or other personal equipment. Human-assisted pathways can spread biosecurity threats much further and faster than natural pathways. It is important to carry out appropriate personal biosecurity measures whether or not any outbreaks have been reported as their presence may not always be apparent, especially in the early stages.

We can reduce the risk of introducing and spreading biosecurity threats by carrying out appropriate biosecurity measures. In this document, personal biosecurity refers to the measures taken by an individual to minimise the risk of introducing and spreading biosecurity threats via potentially contaminated clothing, personal equipment, and tools.

Biosecurity is one of Defra’s top environmental issues, but we must now all ensure that by biosecurity we not only mean protecting our environment at a national level, but at a personal level as well.

Biosecurity measures

The following measures provide the minimum standard of personal biosecurity that should be followed by individuals conducting fieldwork, or who are otherwise at risk of encountering biosecurity threats through their work activities. These measures aim to prevent biosecurity threats from being introduced to or spread between sites. The information in brackets indicates which measures apply to different groups.

Prior to arrival

Determine visit necessity (staff and contractors)

For most occasions, access to a site will be essential for the needs of your organisation; however, consider if the task can be effectively achieved by another manner such as a virtual meeting. This would remove the biosecurity risk entirely.

When visiting a site, do you have to access areas where contact with potentially contaminated material is more likely (e.g., areas containing livestock or a known biosecurity threat)?  Can you conduct your activity whilst avoiding these areas?

Volunteers: The volunteer manager will determine whether your assigned site visits are necessary on your behalf.

Plan site visit order  (staff, contractors and volunteers)

If visiting multiple sites in one day can you plan the order of the sites to ensure those that pose the greatest biosecurity risk are visited last? (Such as those known to host biosecurity threats, or where contact with potentially contaminated material is more likely.)

If the site you are carrying out your task in is large, is it possible to plan a route to avoid areas that pose a greater biosecurity risk (such as known presence of an invasive plant) or ensure they are visited last?

Contact the site owner (staff and contractors)

Where possible and appropriate, contact the landowner or land manager to enquire if they are aware of any biosecurity risks present on their land or site that you should be aware of. This enquiry should be conducted in the same way as you would when enquiring about health and safety considerations whilst preparing a site-specific risk assessment.
If the landowner or land manager has identified a biosecurity risk, such as the presence of a non-native invasive species or the location of livestock grazing in certain areas, seek additional advice. See ‘Annex A: Participating organisations further information’.

Volunteers: The volunteer manager might make contact with the site owner on your behalf, or may provide you with a landowner letter to negotiate any necessary access to private land.

Complete a pre-visit biosecurity risk assessment (staff and contractors)

Carry out a pre-visit biosecurity risk assessment, either included as part of a wider site or activity risk assessment or separately, considering all the biosecurity risks and threats that may be present. This should be based on a combination of existing site information alongside the mitigation measures set out in this document or your organisation’s own biosecurity guidance, where available. See ‘Biosecurity risk assessment’ section for further information.

Volunteers: The volunteer manager may complete a pre-visit risk assessment to the best of their abilities on your behalf.

Prepare a biosecurity kit (staff, contractors and volunteers)

Ensure access to a biosecurity kit, whether this is a personal kit or a collective ‘pool’ kit held at a yard or office. This must contain all of the equipment necessary to implement the minimum standard of biosecurity on every site visit for your planned day’s activities. See ‘Equipment’ section for further information.

Volunteers: If you do not have access to a portable biosecurity kit, you must ensure you have access to facilities that enable you to carry out appropriate biosecurity measures at home, such as a water supply, stiff brush, and an area to dry your equipment.

Arrive clean (staff, contractors and volunteers)       

Ensure all transportation and personal equipment, including boots and clothing, is clean so it is visually free from any potentially contaminated material, dry and ideally, disinfected before arrival to each site.

On site

Find a biosecurity base (staff, contractors and volunteers) 

Find a location on or near site that is suitable for parking your vehicle and for carrying out appropriate personal biosecurity measures on arrival and departure. This should ideally be on hard-standing and at least 10m away from a water course.

Determine if it is essential for your vehicle to leave a firm surface (such as a track or road) to undertake your work activities. If you do need to use your vehicle to enter a site try to stay on a firm surface and avoid off-roading.

Volunteers: If you do not have access to a portable biosecurity kit your supervisor 
should establish a base that will allow you to carry out biosecurity measures on site. If you are lone working and do not have access to a portable biosecurity kit, you should locate a similar base at home and always arrive clean at your next site.

Carry out a dynamic risk assessment  (staff, contractors and volunteers) 

You will already have completed a pre-visit risk assessment, but on arrival are there any biosecurity risks present that were not already identified?  If so, implement any mitigation measures. See ‘Risk assessment’ section for further information.

Keep hands clean (staff, contractors and volunteers) 

With the Covid-19 pandemic we have all learned the importance of personal biosecurity to reduce the risk from disease.  Remember to clean hands (soap and water, cleansing wipes, hand sanitiser etc.) on completion of a site visit.

Leave clean (staff, contractors and volunteers)

Ensure all footwear and personal equipment which has come into contact with potentially contaminated material is visibly clean before leaving each site using a brush, boot pick, and clean water supply, ideally followed by application of an appropriate disinfectant (further guidance on disinfectants can be found on the Defra Biosecurity Hub).

If it is necessary to wear specific personal protective equipment (PPE) for biosecurity purposes:

Single-use clothing and shoe covers must be disposed of on completion of a site visit, either by being left with the owner or securely bagged up in a clinical waste bag and disposed of at an approved receiving facility.

Cotton boiler suits and coats must be securely bagged after use for re-laundering at 60 °C using a biological detergent before use on a new site.

All PPE and equipment must be stored in a dry, well-ventilated area after cleaning and be thoroughly dry before its next use.

Further information about environment specific biosecurity considerations, such as the Check Clean Dry campaign for aquatic and riparian environments, can be found in ‘Annex A: Participating organisations further information’.

Volunteers: If you do not have access to a portable biosecurity kit, you must ensure your footwear and personal equipment is cleaned and dried at the earliest opportunity, and always before conducting your next site visit.

Report threats (staff, contractors and volunteers)

If a priority biosecurity threat dealt with by another organisation is spotted on a site visit, record and report it where possible (see Annex A for details) – the sooner new outbreaks are identified, the sooner they can be dealt with. Ideally the landowner should also be made aware of the finding.

It is very important to adhere to the above personal biosecurity measures on all site visits as outbreaks of biosecurity threats may not always be apparent, especially when in the early stages.

Biosecurity risk assessment

It is essential that biosecurity risks are considered when planning fieldwork or any activity that may otherwise involve coming into contact with biosecurity threats. Before conducting a site visit, the site itself and the activities being carried out on site should be assessed for potential personal biosecurity risks. For any threats identified, suitable mitigation measures should be implemented. Any biosecurity measures should proportionately reflect the risk involved, be practical and be relevant to the type and scale of the work being carried out.

It is easiest and most time-efficient to include an assessment of the biosecurity threats within your organisation’s standard site risk assessment process, however a separate biosecurity risk assessment can be created if desired (See Annex B: Example biosecurity risk assessment). A dynamic risk assessment should also be carried out on arrival to a site in case there are any threats present that were not identified during the initial risk assessment.

A biosecurity risk assessment does not make recommendations on how to control or eradicate biosecurity threats. It assesses how opportunities for the introduction and spread of these threats can be mitigated.

When operating in an area with a known biosecurity threat, individuals should adhere to the measures set out by the relevant regulatory organisation. The specific guidance given by the regulatory organisation for the specified threat should take precedence over the guidance given in this document. Biosecurity should however form part of any standard operating procedure, and just because a biosecurity threat is not known to be present should not prevent at least the minimum personal biosecurity measures referred to in this document from being carried out.

See Annex B: Example biosecurity risk assessment for further information.


This equipment list details the items that should be included within a personal biosecurity kit in order to implement the minimum standard of biosecurity set out within this guidance.

Essential items

Biosecurity kits should contain the following items as standard:

  • Container or bucket large enough to immerse a boot in
  • Adequate water supply for your daily tasks
  • Long handled, stiff plastic bristled brush
  • Boot pick or a tool to remove debris from in between boot treads
  • Cleansing wipes/soap and water/hand sanitiser

Additional items

Certain roles may require individuals to also carry the following additional items within their biosecurity kits:

  • Disinfectant (further guidance on disinfectants can be found on the Defra Biosecurity Hub)
  • Equipment for disinfectant application, for example a hand sprayer.
  • Appropriate PPE for using disinfectants e.g., gloves and eye protection (always consult disinfectants’ MSDS before use).
  • Container with a lid to prevent disinfectant degrading through direct sunlight, dirt, rainfall, and evaporation.
  • Appropriate storage facility for the container holding the disinfectant. E.g., if the disinfectant is flammable it will need to be securely stored in an airtight container identified with a flammable hazard symbol.
  • Portable pressure washer (useful for cleaning larger equipment)
  • Suitable personal clothing and protective clothing
    • General reusable items include waterproof outerwear and footwear which can be easily cleaned and, when appropriate, disinfected between premises (e.g., wellington boots or walking boots that have easily cleaned treads).
    • Specialist items may include disposable boiler suits and overshoes, or cotton boiler suits or coats.

It is important to make sure enough supplies of protective clothing, water and disinfectants are available to cover the activities for the day in case these are not available on any of the sites visited.

Multi-threat sites

It is highly likely that multiple environments or biosecurity threats may be encountered when carrying out fieldwork or activities where individuals are at risk of coming into contact with biosecurity threats. Therefore, it is important that a holistic approach to personal biosecurity is adopted in such situations.

This guidance provides a broad overview of the minimum standard of biosecurity that should be adhered to by staff, contractors, and volunteers working in any environment. It is not uncommon that multiple threats or environments will be encountered during a site visit. Individuals must act in a biosecure manner considerate of all the environments entered.

Annex A: Participating organisations further information


Target biosecurity threat


Further information

Animal and Plant Health Agency


Full list of APHA contacts

APHA homepage

Animal and Plant Health Agency
(Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate)

Plant; Tree (Horticulture)


PHSI webpage

Animal and Plant Health Agency
(National Bee Unit)



NBU homepage

Broads Authority

No specific target

Broads Authority – Contact Us

BA homepage

Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science

Aquatic; Marine

Cefas contact

Cefas aquatic animal health webpage

Drinking Water Inspectorate

No specific target

Drinking Water Inspectorate – Contact Us

DWI homepage

Environment Agency



EA homepage
Check Clean Dry

Forest Research


Forest Research – Contact Us

FR homepage

Forestry Commission

Tree (Forests; parkland)


FC Homepage

FC Keep It Clean

GB Non-native Species Secretariat

No specific target


GB NNSS homepage

GBNNSS Biosecurity resources

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

No specific target

JNCC Contact Points and Enquiries

JNCC homepage

Marine Management Organisation



MMO homepage

National Forest Company

No specific target

National Forest - Contact Us

NFC homepage

Natural England

No specific target

Natural England - Contact Us

NE homepage

Rural Payments Agency



RPA homepage

Annex B: Example biosecurity risk assessment


Animal and Plant Health Agency. 2020. Biosecurity Measures that Official Veterinarians must take when Visiting Livestock Premises (http://apha.defra.gov.uk/External_OV_Instructions/Essential_Skills_for_Official_Veterinarians/Biosecurity/index.htm).

Centre for the Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science. 2019. Cefas Weymouth Laboratory Biosecurity Manual.

Defra. 2012. Controlling disease in farm animals

Defra. 2015. The Great Britain Invasive Non-native Species Strategy (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/455526/gb-non-native-species-strategy-pb14324.pdf).

Defra. 2018. Co-operation the key to tackling pennywort (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cooperation-the-key-to-tackling-pennywort).

Defra. 2018. Tree Health Resilience Strategy: Building the resilience of our trees, woods and forests to pests and diseases (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/710719/tree-health-resilience-strategy.pdf).

Food and Environment Research Agency. 2009. Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae: Key findings from UK research.

Forestry Commission. N.d. Image 1010032, Sheep grazing, background of farm forestry, Fort Augustus FD, Forest Life Picture Library (https://images.forestryengland.uk/fotoweb/archives/5000-Legacy-Images/Legacy%20Images/1010032.jpg.info#?c=%2Ffotoweb%2Farchives%2F5000-Legacy-Images%2F%3Fq%3Dsheep).

Forestry Commission. 2018. Prevent the introduction and spread of tree pests and diseases (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prevent-the-introduction-and-spread-of-tree-pests-and-diseases).

GB Non-native Species Secretariat. 2020. Biosecurity in the field.

Hill, L., Jones, G., Atkinson, N., Hector, A., Hemery, G., and Brown, N. 2019. The £15 billion cost of ash dieback in Britain

National Audit Office. 2002. The 2001 Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (https://www.nao.org.uk/report/the-2001-outbreak-of-foot-and-mouth-disease/).

Rural Payments Agency. N.d. Disinfection Procedures.

Rural Payments Agency. 2015. Bio Security Measures.

Environment Agency. 2003. Guidance for the control of invasive weeds in or near fresh water.


© Crown copyright 2022

This information is licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. To view this licence, visit www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/

This publication is available at www.gov.uk/government/publications  

Any enquiries regarding this publication should be sent to us at biosecurity@forestrycommission.gov.uk