There have been multiple reports of agricultural operations that are dealing with a coronavirus outbreak among employees. Even as operations adhere to the updated safety protocols and implement safety checks prior to the workday, there are still instances of employees contracting COVID-19. It is important that farm employers understand their responsibilities under these circumstances.
“One of the things that they’ve got to do first is contact their local health department and let them know what has transpired,” said acting President and CEO of AgSafe, Theresa Kiehn. “We’ve got some health departments that may not have the resources to come out and to be that assistance, but you have to let them know what’s going on so that they can help provide some guidance. You also need to make sure that you have contacted Cal/OSHA.”
Employers should be providing all of the necessary personal protective equipment to prevent a coronavirus outbreak and should also be regularly cleaning and disinfecting common work areas and tools. Kiehn explained that should an employee test positive for COVID-19, it is the employer’s responsibility to inform other crew members while also adhering to privacy laws. “We are not giving any names and specific details, but just letting the crew know what has happened and that you are taking all the preventative measures to ensure their safety,” Kiehn noted.
PREPARATION GOES A LONG WAY
Employers have been continually making updates to their Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) as more guidance and information becomes available. Many employers have added health screening checks and temperature checks to their IILP. Formulating a plan and explaining it to the entire workforce can be extremely helpful in the event that employee’s contract COVID-19.
“Having a plan is really crucial to ensuring that you are ready in case something happens,” said Kiehn. “It is so difficult to try to piece everything together after something has happened and also the fear that you’re going to end up missing something.”
Communication is a critical factor in helping to navigate the circumstances should a coronavirus outbreak occur. Employers should clearly explain what types of sick leave options are available and detail what is being done to ensure worker safety. “Having all that information in advance and giving employees an opportunity to think about what would happen, what questions that they might have, has really led to operations having a smoother transition if somebody should come down with COVID within their operation,” Kiehn explained.