The COVID-19 pandemic has caused organizations to reassess workplace protocols and procedures—and the agricultural sector is no exception. There is no evidence that livestock, crops or products that may be handled by agriculture workers are sources of COVID-19 infection. However, having staff work in close proximity in the fields or frequently share tools and equipment could easily contribute to spreading the coronavirus—especially when workers move from farm to farm.
All agriculture work sites should follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but may also need to account for additional state and local requirements or restrictions. With this in mind, consider the following guidance to help maintain a healthy and safe work environment as you continue to conduct agricultural operations in the midst of the pandemic.
- Adjust procedures to promote social distancing measures as much as possible. This might include staggering work shifts or break times, reducing crew sizes and having staff alternate rows when working in the fields.
- When providing any employee training, try to do so in an outdoor area, where all employees can stay 6 feet apart. When social distancing is not possible, consider having the same groups of employees work in close proximity each time, and—if possible—install physical barriers between employees (e.g., a plastic sheet) to limit face-to-face contact.
- Consider transportation risks. If you provide transportation for workers, keep as much space between riders as possible, and require all riders to wear face masks or coverings while in the vehicle. Additionally, require riders to wash their hands before and after each trip, as well as follow proper cough and sneeze etiquette while in the vehicle.
- Utilize a well-documented system to track how often cleaning and disinfection take place. Increase cleaning and disinfection frequency for the entire workplace, paying special attention to high-risk areas and objects—such as farm tools or equipment, common areas, vehicles and restrooms.
- Increase access to clean water for hygiene purposes. Install numerous hand-washing or hand-sanitizing stations throughout the workplace. Specifically, make sure you have these stations located at the entrance and exit of the workplace.
Additional unique factors that may increase risk among farm workers include sharing transportation and living in employer-furnished housing. The mobility of the workforce may also potentially spread the coronavirus between communities.
For additional COVID-19 resources, contact Paul Hall & Associates Insurance today.