COVID-19: How to stay safe on your shoot
Like most areas of life, shooting has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. But as lockdown restrictions ease and the economy kicks back into action, the prospect of a lively shooting season is looking better and better.
However, as with all sectors, organising shoots means complying with the government’s COVID-19 guidelines to help reduce the spread of the virus. Thankfully, the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) have put together a framework of advice for organising a safe, compliant shoot.
To make things easy for shooters, we’ve summarised the key points from BASC’s guidelines in this handy blog post. Please bear in mind that this advice is subject to change as government guidelines are updated, so be sure to check your local lockdown rules before organising a shoot.
Before the shoot
Ahead of organising your shoot, you’ll need to conduct a risk assessment. Each individual shoot will need its own risk assessment and scenario planning.
The BASC website has specific guidelines for completing a risk assessment for your shoot. Although they don’t include specific advice relating to COVID-19, you can use them to help identify risk factors and mitigation measures relating to the virus. For risk assessment templates, visit the government’s Health and Safety Executive website.
When applying mitigation measures, make sure you refer to the government’s latest COVID-19 guidelines, including any local restrictions that may apply. As with any risk assessment, if you’re not confident that the risk can be reduced to an acceptable level, the shoot should not go ahead.
Deciding who should attend the shoot
As of August 2020, the government paused shielding requirements for clinically vulnerable people in England. However, measures to protect at-risk people attending shoot days should be taken.
A rise in cases could see clinically vulnerable people being asked to shield again, so keep an eye on these guidelines as your shoot approaches.
If your shoot has five or more employees at any one time, you are legally required to have a health and safety policy in place. However, even if your shoot doesn’t have employees, it’s still a good idea to assess and document potential risks.
In the context of COVID-19, your policy should include:
- Assessment of vulnerability to COVID-19.
- Assessment of physical ability to undertake the tasks required.
- Identification of precautions required to protect everyone involved in the shoot (such as establishing hygiene and transportation guidelines).
Advice should be clearly outlined and shared with employees and participants before the shoot starts. A clear safety brief, including risks and actions in response to COVID-19, should be given before each shoot.
Travel & accommodation
Travel restrictions, including those resulting from local lockdowns, are subject to change as the coronavirus situation develops. Consider how restrictions might impact the shoot day, including any limitations on distances which can be travelled and how many different households can travel together.
Although accommodation is currently permitted to open, consider how any restrictions on hotels, restaurants and local stores might impact those attending the shoot.
Shooters from abroad
Have a chat with any shooters visiting from abroad, as they may have to quarantine for two weeks before they can attend the shoot. Check the government guidance for an up-to-date guide to which countries are on the UK’s list of ‘travel corridors’.
To keep your shooters and staff safe, and to avoid any costly fines, you must comply with restrictions on social gatherings in force at the time of the shoot. If your shoot is being run as a business, current regulations allow you to host more than 30 people, as long as you undertake a risk assessment in line with the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Regulations and take measures to limit the transmission of the coronavirus.
If your shoot is not being run as a business, current guidelines allow for gatherings of up to 30 people, both indoors and outdoors, providing measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus are in place. There is no limit to the number of employees allowed, as long as the gathering is for essential work purposes (e.g. beaters, pickers-up etc).
On the day of the shoot
Anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19, or who shares a household with someone showing symptoms, must not attend the shoot. Likewise, anyone who has had symptoms or has been exposed to COVID-19 within the 14 days before the shoot must not attend.
To support the government’s Test and Trace initiative, you should collect the full names and contact numbers of everyone attending the shoot. This information must be kept secure and should be deleted 21 days after the shoot in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Arriving at the shoot
At the arrival point of your shoot, social distancing measures should be put in place. These measures could include:
- Reducing the time between the arrival of participants and the start of the shoot day.
- Distancing vehicles in car parks.
- Asking people to remain in their vehicles until the shoot briefing.
- Putting social distancing markers in communal areas.
- Avoiding indoor spaces, unless you’re able to maintain social distancing.
- Maintaining social distancing while outdoors.
- Increasing the cleaning of hard surfaces and contact points (such as entry gates and door handles).
- Where it’s difficult to maintain social distancing, reducing contact time to less than 10 minutes.
- Having one person to control access points to reduce contact from multiple individuals.
- Separating the group into smaller ‘bubbles’, which remain separate from one another.
The shoot briefing
As well as the usual safety briefing, all participants should be informed of the precautions and guidelines in place to protect against COVID-19. It’s also a good idea to provide a written briefing before the shoot, which can be done via email.
Here are some things to consider for conducting a safe briefing:
- Brief participants outdoors where safe to do so, ensuring social distancing is maintained.
- If briefings have to be indoors, take steps to ensure that social distancing can be maintained, keep time spent indoors to a minimum, and open windows and doors to increase airflow.
- If possible, introduce a one-way system when entering and leaving the area.
- Instead of every shooter drawing pegs, consider having one person doing the draw.
Where possible, travel around the shoot on foot. If transport is needed, individuals or household groups should travel in separate vehicles where possible. Transport should be planned well in advance of the day to make sure the right measures are in place. Parking arrangements around the shoot should also be considered, ensuring multiple vehicles can be accommodated safely and without impacting other countryside users.
If transport is required for the shoot, you should consider:
- Social distancing between passengers (currently 2m, or from 4 July, 1m+ mitigation).
- Sitting side by side, not face to face, and increasing ventilation in the vehicle.
- Using a ‘partnering system’, with fixed teams always travelling together (e.g. separate teams/vehicles for stops, beaters and pickers-up).
- Using handwashing facilities or hand sanitiser before and after each journey.
- Organising drives to minimise travel times.
- Cleaning transport contact points (e.g. doors, handrails) before and after each journey.
- Enhanced cleaning of shoot transport before and after each shoot.
- Minimising the touching of dogs and surfaces within vehicles.
- Ensuring anyone travelling with multiple people wears a face covering, in line with government guidance for using public transport in England.
To reduce the transmission risk, consider issuing equipment and radios to individuals, and encouraging people not to share. Ensure all equipment is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before and after use.
On the day of the shoot, follow the latest government guidance on social distancing and gatherings. Where possible, socialising should take place outside, avoiding large gatherings in small spaces (such as a shoot hut). Any indoor space should be configured so that social distancing can be observed. If possible, introduce a one-way system when entering and leaving, and make sure the space gets plenty of ventilation.
Food & refreshments
Although providing food and drinks increases the risk of transmission for COVID-19, there are some measures you can put in place to mitigate this risk. These include:
- Asking people to bring their own food and refreshments. These should not be shared.
- Providing handwashing facilities or hand sanitising points.
- Avoiding indoor facilities – including seating areas – unless social distancing can be maintained.
- Using outdoor areas while maintaining social distancing.
- Putting queue management and/or one-way systems in place.
- Using Perspex screens in serving areas.
- Avoiding ‘buffet/self-serve’ options.
- Enhanced cleaning regimes for surfaces and equipment, and regular waste removal.
- Where contract/outside catering is used, ensuring a copy of their COVID-19 risk assessment is provided and that the service they offer is compliant with government guidance for the sector.
For more guidance on food hygiene during the pandemic, visit the government’s COVID guidelines.
One of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of the coronavirus is frequent handwashing and hand sanitising. Think about ways you can improve and increase handwashing on shoot days. Measures can include:
- Advising people to bring hand sanitiser with them on shoot days and to follow guidance on handwashing.
- Providing additional handwashing and hand sanitising facilities where possible.
- Using signs to reinforce messaging about frequent handwashing and not touching surfaces.
It’s also important to enhance hygiene practices in communal areas, with special attention being paid to high-use communal areas such as washrooms and toilets. PPE, such as gloves and face coverings, may further help reduce transmission.
Another way to improve your shoot’s hygiene is to increase the number of waste bins. Take appropriate precautions when disposing of waste, including the use of gloves and thorough handwashing after emptying waste bins. When disposing of PPE or waste that may have been contaminated with COVID-19, you should refer to the relevant Government guidelines.
With a rise in public access to rural areas, shoot organisers should consider other land users, such as walkers, who may be present on shoot days. This will increase other risks associated with the shoot day, as well as potentially increasing COVID-19 transmission sources, such as gates and styles.
The beating line
Beaters, flaggers and stops usually maintain distance between themselves during a drive. However, in addition to the guidance already outlined, you should also consider:
- Maintaining social distancing while walking to and entering drives, and once the drive has finished.
- Maintaining social distancing when waiting to cross obstacles such as fences and styles.
- Planning routes around the shoot to avoid crossing points and gates, where practical.
- Washing or sanitising hands after crossing obstacles which others may have crossed or touched (fences, styles, gates etc).
- Nominating a person to oversee hygiene measures and sanitising throughout the shoot day.
Although pickers-up usually operate in a socially distanced way during each drive, there are areas which create an increased COVID-19 transmission risk. In addition to the guidance already outlined, you should also consider:
- Having pickers-up travel in their own vehicles around the shoot.
- Encouraging pickers-up to bring their own equipment, or be issued with equipment that is not shared.
- Minimising the handling of shot game, using a game carrier where appropriate.
- Maintaining social distancing by avoiding handing shot game to other people, including the game-cart operator.
- Avoiding touching dogs belonging to other people.
If the shoot supplies cartridges for guns, consider putting measures in place to ensure this is done safely. These could include:
- Having one individual handle the cartridges, ensuring appropriate handwashing measures are followed and PPE is worn, if appropriate.
- Providing cartridges at a safe, centralised location, supervised by the provider.
- Ensuring that those collecting cartridges maintain social distancing.
Empty cases also pose a risk for COVID-19 transmission. To reduce this risk, you should consider:
- Asking shooters to collect their own empty cases, with disposal points on each drive.
- Having one person to collect empty cases at the end of each drive, using appropriate PPE (such as nitrile gloves) and ensuring thorough handwashing measures are followed.
- Liaising with your local recycling agent and following any COVID-secure guidelines they have when disposing of the cartridge cases.
Loading requires individuals to operate within 1m of each other. Unless the loader is from the same household, this breaches guidance on social distancing. Because of this, loading should only take place if absolutely necessary, following the government guidance for ‘close contact’ services. Individual shoots should also take into account any additional implications for health and safety from following this guidance.
Due to the constant handling and transfer of guns, loading for double guns poses a higher risk than single gun loading. Appropriate cleaning and sanitising precautions should be put in place for all shared equipment.
Those chaperoning novice shooters should also follow government guidance for ‘close contact services’. It may be appropriate to exclude novice shooters where appropriate supervision is not possible.
Handling shot game
In advance of the shoot, shoot managers must ensure they have the appropriate measures in place for selling game. During the shoot, it’s also important that all game is handled in accordance with established game handling and hygiene requirements.
To maintain social distancing and reduce the risk of transmission, consider:
- Where safe, having one individual operate the game cart. If that’s not possible, measures should be put in place (such as those for beaters transport) to reduce transmission risks.
- Washing or sanitising hands before and after handling shot game.
- Using PPE (such as nitrile gloves) when handling shot game. This requires using a new pair for each drive and ensuring there are appropriate waste disposal points.
- Maintaining social distancing when loading and unloading shot game.
- Enhancing hygiene practices for the game cart, including regular cleaning of high-contact surfaces.
Loading and unloading game to the shoot larder presents a transmission risk. To reduce this risk, consider:
- Maintaining social distancing. Measures could include having one person unload the game into/out of the larder, or implementing processes to ensure 2m distancing can be maintained.
- Enhancing cleaning of contact points with products which are safe for use around food items, paying particular attention to larder doors, switches and other high contact-surfaces.
- Washing or sanitising hands before and after using the larder.
- Using PPE (such as nitrile gloves) when handling shot game.
- If you’re transporting shot game to a game dealer, or are having shot game collected by them, ensure you follow any protocols the game dealer may have in place, and vice versa.
Game supplied to guests
Due to multiple handling, game supplied at the end of the shoot presents a transmission risk. To reduce this risk, it’s a good idea to have one central collection point, ensuring social distancing can be observed.
The safest way to take payments during the pandemic is electronically. However, when physical payments are made, enhanced hygiene processes and social distancing can help mitigate the risk of transmission.