TruckSafe Animal Welfare provides a best practice standard for trucking operators transporting animals. Our TruckSafe standards also guide our workplace health and safety policies and procedures leading us to look after our staff to the highest standard.
There is a subject that links animal welfare and employee health and wellbeing: animal disease that spreads from animals to humans, known as zoonosis (or zoonotic diseases). There is one disease in particular that needs to be highlighted to industry -Q Fever. With several hundred cases diagnosed each year, Australia has one of the highest rates of Q Fever worldwide. The greatest number of people diagnosed are from Queensland and NSW.
Q Fever was first recognised as a human disease in Australia back in 1935. The ‘Q’ stands for ‘query’ and was used in a time when the cause of the fever was unknown.
Q Fever is a bacterial infection that is spread from animals to humans through infected particles in the air (Aerosols). The primary carriers of Q Fever are cattle, sheep and goats, but can sometimes include native animals too. The Q Fever bacteria can often survive for long periods of time in the environment and can be carried by wind and dust.
Those who work closely with livestock and animal products are most at risk of infection, with Q Fever a high exposure risk for transport industry workers who transport and handle:
- animal products such as hides, wool and raw milk, and
- animal waste such as animal manure, animal carcasses and abattoir waste.
Q Fever can cause a severe flu-like illness and long-term health problems that damage vital organs including the heart, liver, brain and lungs.
The most effective way to prevent Q Fever is through vaccination, which is recommended for those listed above and those who work, live or visit high-risk environments.
TruckSafe Animal Welfare accreditation through its vehicles and facilities standard ensures that livestock transporters are using vehicles and equipment that are fit for purpose, well maintained and properly cleaned to minimise the spread of disease. TruckSafe documentation requirements mean that drivers are trained, aware and prepared with contingency planning when it comes to biosecurity threats.
Membership connects you to the industry and regular updates, member alerts and facts. So when issues such as Q Fever need to be highlighted our members are updated, educated and kept well informed.
We need to be more than livestock transporters we need to contribute to the story of the meat and livestock industry and as employers we need to look after our biggest assets – our people.
Over the past months the need to demonstrate your Q Fever immune status to current or future employers and other interested parties in the livestock supply chain has become increasingly prominent.
Following is some key information and useful tips and links regarding Q Fever and what you need to be aware of.
How do I protect my business, myself and my staff?
Encourage staff to be screened and vaccinated and to have their immune status registered on the Q Fever Register.
If you or your staff are already vaccinated, the easiest way to check if your immune status has been previously recorded is to contact the Australian Q Fever Helpline on 1300 733 837, or head to their website at www.qfever.org. The website hosts a range of helpful tools and forms. The Helpline team are also great to deal with and will help you navigate the system.
The Australian Q Fever Register is owned by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation and managed by AUS-MEAT Limited. Its purpose is to assist organisations to determine the Q Fever immune status of an individual, to prevent unnecessary testing and to minimise the risk of exposing susceptible individuals in the workplace.
Proof of immune status
While proof of immune status doesn’t expire, it does need to be valid. It’s recommended to convert old and worn paper cards to a new e-statement that is added to the register. These can be printed out, or you can carry a digital copy on your electronic device for display. Remember – the Q Fever immunisation register has been in service since 2002, but there are many people who have been vaccinated that may not be on the voluntary register.
Individuals must take a personal responsibility to regularly follow up the vaccination process as it is of a private and personal nature. Employers must reinforce this message with staff and ensure proof of vaccination is provided as soon as it is received.
My top tips:
- To minimise the risk, have a regular vehicle cleaning program in place, ensure individuals wash their hands and arms thoroughly in soapy water while on duty, wear P2 face masks in high risk work situations, and launder and wash dirty clothing separately at home to prevent the risk to others
- To plan and start your Q Fever compliance program, use the Employee Questionnaire for Employers &/or Medical Practices
Three key things to know about Q Fever:
- Q Fever is a notifiable, but preventable disease and is more serious than influenza
- The Q Fever and vaccine skin testing programs are currently not funded by government, so it’s important to check if your GP offers a Q Fever screening and a vaccination program. It’s also recommended that employers lobby with local members where possible to have this process added to funding initiatives.
- You must allow two GP visits to complete both the pre-vaccination screening, including a blood test and a skin test, before the actual vaccination. These visits should be seven days apart.
Its simple don’t put your employees or your business at risk, encourage your team to be screened and vaccinated. Be proactive. Don’t wait – the process can be lengthy, so you should start your Q Fever compliance program today. Moving forward, include Q Fever vaccination/or proof of vaccination as part of your employee on-boarding process.
Athol Carter is a director of TruckSafe, LRTAQ member and Central Queensland Manager of Frasers Livestock Transport.