The agricultural industry has been steadily adopting and adhering to the coronavirus safety standards that have been passed down. Employers have been making the necessary adjustments to their operations and communicating with their employees about the new safety measures being implemented in the workplace. However, the number of recommendations that continue to be issued can become overwhelming when working to adhere to the best information available.
“I think for a lot of people this whole thing has been like trying to take a sip of water out of the end of a firehose and we’ve done our best to try to help them understand what they need to pay attention to,” said Bryan Little, Director of Employment Policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) and COO of the Farm Employers Labor Service (FELS). “We’re kind of in a situation right now where if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. So, we’re trying to give people guidance as to what they really need to be focused on.”
Industry groups such as CFBF, FELS, and the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety have been working to provide employers with the necessary information related to coronavirus safety standards. Employers are continually updating their safety practices as new guidelines are released from state and federal agencies. Little explained that more communication may be needed between employers and employees on why safety measures are a good practice in and out of the workplace.
“Employers for the most part are doing things that are reasonable to protect employees, but employers only have their employees for a third of the day. The other two-thirds of the day they’re doing other things and employers don’t really have any control over what they do,” Little noted. “You can’t make employers completely responsible for everything that goes on in an employee’s life particularly now that people other than just essential workers are out and about and doing things.”
Special attention has been paid to the safety provisions that are being implemented at the worksite, however significantly less emphasis has been placed on coronavirus safety standards outside of the workplace. Little cited an example from Riverside County where an employee attended a family gathering of 250 people in Tijuana, Mexico and within weeks 13 of the 20 employees became ill. To help emphasize the need to be mindful of safety recommendations, CFBF has initiated a bilingual campaign to “encourage employees to be mindful that the things that their employers are having them do at work, like social distancing and masking, are things they need to be doing while they’re not at work,” said Little.