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Keeping Farm & Landscape Workers Safe: Information Employers Need to Share with Employees

This blog is part of a series focused on keeping agricultural and green industry employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Other blogs in the series cover steps employers can take to protect employees and what to do if an employee is sick or exposed to COVID-19.

Farm workers and green industry professionals (landscapers, tree trimmers, pesticide/fertilizer applicators, etc.) already face risks from heat illness, equipment injury, agri-chemical exposure, and other workplace hazards.  With the outbreak of COVID-19, they now face an additional risk as they work to produce our food and maintain our urban landscapes.  Some of our local agricultural employers have reached out to UF/IFAS Extension for guidance in keeping their workplaces safe during the pandemic.  Below is a summary of current guidance, based on the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease (accessed April 17, 2020) and Executive Orders issued by Florida Governor DeSantis.  Another very helpful and well-organized manual is OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 (accessed April 17, 2020).  As information about COVID-19 changes frequently, this blog is intended as a basic summary of the major considerations, with links where you can access the most current guidance from the CDC and OSHA.

What should I tell my employees about how to keep safe?

Make sure your employees know the steps they can take to protect themselves and others, both at home and at work.

  • Inform employees of the policies and resources to protect and support them, such as sick leave policies, community resources, employee assistance program (EAP) resources, cleaning and disinfection of surfaces/equipment, social distancing, work meeting safety/alternatives, and travel policies.
  • Be aware that some individuals, especially older adults or those who have pre-existing medical conditions are more at risk for serious complications from COVID-19.
  • Stay home and let your supervisor know if you are sick.
  • Let your supervisor know if you have a family member who is sick with COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol may be used.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.  Immediately dispose of the tissue and clean your hands with soap and water or sanitizer.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (doorknobs, keyboards, vehicles, etc.).  Soap and water work well for cleaning.  For disinfection, CDC recommends using products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.
  • Avoid using other employee’s work tools and equipment.  When necessary, clean and disinfect before and after use.
  • Practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet or 2 meters away from others when possible.
  • Allow personnel to work from home if possible, as recommended by Florida Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-83.

For more information, including employee training materials, see the CDC’s Mitigation Guidance for businesses.  Additionally, University of Florida offers posters for the workplace in English, Spanish, and Creole.

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