COVID-19 Prevention Guidance for Agricultural Employers and Employees
Under California Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home COVID-19 Executive Order, agriculture has been classified as an essential industry and therefore agricultural employers and employees are allowed to continue to work as long as they are not ill or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is important for agricultural employers and employees to take measures to prevent the spread of the disease. The California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CALOSHA) has developed COVID-19 safety and health guidelines for employers and employees. According to CALOSHA, because COVID-19 is widespread in the community, most California workplaces must consider the disease a workplace hazard and should establish and implement appropriate Injury and Illness Prevention Programs.
Highlights from CALOSHA’s guidelines are noted below. Growers are strongly encouraged to download a copy of the CALOSHA guidelines to review the complete information provided in the document.
CALOSHA notes that agricultural employers must provide easy-to-understand training for all employees. Topics should include:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information concerning what COVID-19 is, how it is spread, symptoms of the disease, how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are ill, and when to seek medical attention (the CDC COVID-19 website provides English and Spanish resources)
- Importance of frequent hand-washing with soap and water following CDC guidelines, noting that hand sanitizer is not as effective but can be used when hand-washing stations are not available
- How to safely use cleaners and disinfectants
- Importance of avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, and proper coughing and sneezing etiquette
- Maintaining safe physical distancing
- Staying home if workers have COVID-19 symptoms or have had close contact with someone ill with COVID-19
CALOSHA recommends the following be implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at worksites:
- Immediately send employees with acute respiratory illness symptoms to their homes or medical providers
- Establish a protocol to notify local health officials in the event an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19
- Encourage ill employees to stay home, and provide employees with information concerning resources available to them if they are unable to work
- Be certain hand-washing or hand sanitizer stations are readily available
- Routinely clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and objects throughout the workday per CDC guidelines
Safe physical distancing (at least six feet apart) is a critical measure to slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s important to note that physical distancing should be practiced indoors and outdoors, including in vehicles. To increase the likelihood of employees practicing physical distancing CALOSHA recommends the following:
- Adjust work practices and shifts, as needed, to limit crew sizes and stagger shifts
- Stagger break and lunch times, and provide additional seating areas or shade structures so employees can remain 6 feet apart when resting
- Encourage employees to practice physical distancing during non-work hours
- Establish an area for deliveries or pick ups that are removed from employee housing or high-traffic employee work areas
Please refer to the CALOSHA safety and health guidelines for complete information. Additional resources include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety and COVID-19 webpage and the CDC Resources for Businesses and Employers COVID-19 webpage.