EAST LANSING, Mich. — The floriculture team at Michigan State University Extension, in cooperation with the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC), has developed employee training videos for the prevention of airborne disease transmission at greenhouses and garden centers. These videos, funded by the Western Michigan Greenhouse Association (WMGA), can help green industry employers fulfill the need for COVID-19 training requirements as required by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) and keep their workforce prepared in the event of a future widespread airborne disease outbreak.
Growers can expect these videos to:
- Follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 training guidelines for agricultural workers
- Satisfy worker training requirements for COVID-19 (MIOSHA)
- Satisfy worker training requirements for pandemic preparedness plans (MIOSHA)
Why is this important?
Many will recall the effort put into preparedness for pandemic influenza in the early 2000s. In agriculture, most of this effort was directed toward preventing the spread of influenza in poultry flocks (H5N1, H7N9, H9N2) and swine herds (H1N1, H1N2, H3N2) and addressing mass mortality in the event of an outbreak. As such, there was little to no guidance developed for preventing zoonoses or widespread disease outbreaks among workers. This preparatory shortfall, in combination with the novel nature of the coronavirus, resulted in a situation in which few tools were available to guide the industry on how to implement appropriate preventative measures while maintaining business operations. In short, the industry was largely unprepared to prevent or mitigate the spread COVID-19 within its workforce.
The high-profile failures to contain infectious diseases at agricultural operations exposed a huge weakness and highlights the necessity for our industry to:
- Be prepared: Have an established plan and be ready to implement should there be a threat of widespread public disease outbreaks.
- Demonstrate to regulators and public decision-makers that the green industry is fully capable of maintaining business operations while preventing/minimizing the spread of an infectious disease among their workers.
Although presented in the context of the Michigan green industry, these videos were specifically designed for use in greenhouses and garden centers across the United States. The subject matter is general enough to be used for the prevention of a wide range of airborne diseases, ensuring the videos will remain relevant worker training tools for years to come.
Topics covered by the videos:
- How airborne diseases spread, risks for workplace expose, and how workers can protect themselves (CDC, MIOSHA).
- Proper handwashing practices and use of hand sanitizer stations (CDC, MIOSHA).
- Farm-specific social distancing practices (CDC, MIOSHA).
- Cough and sneeze etiquette (CDC).
- Other routine infection control precautions: social distancing measures and putting on/taking off masks and gloves (CDC, MIOSHA).
- Steps to take if workers get sick (CDC, MIOSHA).
- Employer policies regarding COVID-19 (CDC, MIOSHA).
- How to report unsafe working conditions (MIOSHA).
- Working with retail customers who do not follow safety protocols (garden center video only).
Closed captioning is available for both training videos. Spanish versions will be available at a later date. Additional resources for greenhouse and garden center operators can be found at the MSU Extension Floriculture COVID-19 Resource page. Operationally specific questions, clarification inquiries, and requests for assistance with pandemic preparedness plan development can be directed to:
— Jeremy Jubenville and Melissa Millerick-May, Michigan State University Extension
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