COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released specific guidance today for agricultural workers and employers to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and to help lower the disease’s impact at agricultural worksites. The guidance can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-agricultural-workers.html
Last week New York State released its own COVID-19 guidance for the agricultural industry (Many states have released their own guidance for agriculture in recent weeks. It is generally recommended that you refer to your state guidance first, as state guidance it typically overrides federal guidance in these instances.
Challenges to decreasing the spread of COVID-19 at agricultural worksites include:
- Frequent close contact with coworkers in the field and indoors
- Sharing of tools, equipment, such as tractors, and other production or processing machinery
- Possible sharing of transportation such as ride-share vans, carpools, and public transportation
- Living in employer-provided housing, sharing living quarters, cooking and eating areas, bathrooms, and laundry facilities with fellow workers
- Frequent contact with fellow workers in community settings in areas where there is ongoing community spread of COVID-19
The guidance outlines policies and procedures relevant to the industry that farm owners and operators can use to ensure the safety of their workers and to facilitate their compliance with COVID-specific OSHA regulations.
“Recent stories in both national and local news have shown how COVID-19 has the potential to severely impact workers and farm productivity,”, said Dr. Julie Sorensen, Director of the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety in Farming, Commercial Fishing and Forestry (NEC). Sorensen noted that COVID-19 impacts have been severe in some cases, with operations either being completely shut down or creating labor shortages that have required euthanizing livestock or loss of product.
“Prevention of COVID-19 will be key to managing the crisis and this guidance provides specific information for agriculture—and essential industry,” said Sorensen.
The NEC, as well as another ten Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health designated by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), collaborated with the CDC in developing the guidance.
Farm operations vary widely. For this reason, the NEC encourages agricultural business owners or managers feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about COVID-19 prevention practices to call and speak to one of its agricultural safety specialists. They provide free technical assistance to all farm types, from Maine to West Virginia.
For technical assistance with an agricultural safety specialist or an industrial hygienist at NEC, call: 800-343-7527
The NEC also provides free virtual safety trainings for employees, offered in English or in Spanish. The trainings can cover COVID-19 topics or a spectrum of other farm safety topics of concern related to a business’ specific operation.
Serving a twelve-state region from Maine through West Virginia, the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety (NEC) promotes health and safety research, education, and prevention activities in the high-risk areas of farming, commercial fishing and logging. For more information specific to workplace health and safety concerns in these industries and how they relate to the coronavirus pandemic, go to: https://www.necenter.org/covid-19/
—Maryellen Driscoll,Northeast Center