Apr 16, 2020
Protecting farm labor during the COVID-19 pandemic

Maintaining a healthy farm workforce is more important than ever to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure a successful harvest.

Farms should continue to enforce food safety best practices already in place, such as:

  • Proper hand washing
  • Monitoring employees for symptoms of illness
  • Training employees on proper procedures if they experience any sickness

Purdue Extension recommends the following best practices and precautions to maintain a healthy farm workforce and specifically reduce the spread of COVID-19.

  • Growers should review and follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19 including:
    • Keep employees at least six feet apart to comply with social distancing
    • Encourage frequent hand washing
    • Instruct employees to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth
    • Instruct employees to stay home if they are sick
    • Educate employees on recognizing COVID-19 symptoms. Visit the CDC website for a list of COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Consider using personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect employees. Consider repurposing PPE that is already available on the farm — including dust masks, face shields and nitrile gloves.
    • If possible, PPE must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after every use. Visit the CDC website for guidelines on sanitizing PPE.
    • PPE that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized should be designated for use by a single employee, and should not be shared.
  • Adjust transportation methods at the farm to maintain social distancing. If possible, workers should refrain from driving personal vehicles to production areas. If that is unavoidable, the farm needs to provide a designated parking area away from harvesting activities. All vehicles need to be frequently cleaned and sanitized.
  • Supervisors and owners should monitor and document the health of their workforce in a daily health check prior to their shift.
    • Ask workers if they are experiencing respiratory illness symptoms
    • Use a touchless thermometer to take an employee’s temperature
    • Supervisors should use PPE to limit the spread of COVID-19 if they are within six feet of employees during these health checks

Additional COVID-19 resources for produce growers can be found at Safe Produce Indiana.

Should you have any questions, please contact a representative from SafeProduceIN:

Amanda Deering, Clinical Associate Professor of Food Science at Purdue University and Purdue Extension Specialist, (765) 494-0512

– Scott Monroe, Purdue Extension Food Safety Educator, (812) 888-7401


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