Construction workers may have been responsible for spreading foot-and-mouth disease from a research institute in Surrey in July, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The HSE report into the outbreak at Pirbright, released last Friday, found that the virus emerged from waste water from the site’s drainage system. Contaminated soil then left the site on muddied construction vehicles, which were driven along a road passing the first affected farm. The report concluded this was the “most likely” scenario.

Geoffrey Podger, the HSE’s chief executive, said: “During the period of our investigation, human and vehicle movements at Pirbright were not adequately controlled. We conclude that failure to keep complete records was not in line with accepted practice and represents a breach in biosecurity at the site.”

The workers were performing road and drainage works on the £121m redevelopment of Defra’s Institute for Animal Health.

The redevelopment is being handled by Defra and the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council. Neither they nor the HSE would name the contractors.