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 Agricultural Workers and Employers (updated June 11, 2020; accessed July 27, 2020) and Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease (updated May 6, 2020; accessed July 24, 2020). Other helpful resources include OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and a quick tips 1-page fact sheet, COVID-19 Guidance for Agricultural Workers and Employers from the Martin County Department of Health and UF/IFAS Extension Martin County. 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. Here are some of the key pieces of information to share with employees:
- COVID-19 signs and symptoms, how the virus spreads, workplace risks and protections. OSHA has a wallet card (available in English and Spanish) that provides agricultural workers with information on how to stay safe from COVID-19 and report workplace hazards.
- Policies and resources to protect and support employees through the pandemic, such as sick leave policies, community resources, employee assistance program (EAP) resources, cleaning and disinfection practices, 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.
- Steps to take if the employee gets sick or has had recent close contact with someone who may have or has been confirmed to have COVID-19.
- Proper handwashing and use of sanitizer stations.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cough and sneeze etiquette, including covering 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. Employers should offer farm-specific social distancing guidance as appropriate, such as how workers can move through the fields in a way such that they are able to stay 6 feet apart.
- How and when to use particular types of PPE, such as gloves and masks.
- 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, CDC COVID-19 Print Resources, and OSHA training resources. Additionally, University of Florida offers posters for the workplace in English, Spanish, and Creole.