CalOSHA issues COVID-19 guidance for farms, ranches

Issue Date: April 8, 2020
By Kevin Hecteman

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released guidance for agricultural employers to update their Injury and Illness Prevention Plans to address the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

"This guidance does not introduce any new legal obligations," CalOSHA said in its announcement, "but because COVID-19 is widespread in the community, most California workplaces must consider the disease a workplace hazard."

The guidance recommends employers provide training as to what the disease is and how it spreads, and ways to minimize risk, including the importance of handwashing; avoiding touching one's face; use of personal protective equipment; and social distancing while on the job.

CalOSHA also encouraged employers to establish procedures to routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and objects, such as door handles and shared work stations.

In addition, the guidance recommends employers encourage their employees to practice safe habits while off the clock, including avoiding large gatherings.

Bryan Little, director of employment policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation and chief operating officer of CFBF affiliate Farm Employers Labor Service, said the main takeaway from the guidance document is that Cal/OSHA does not recommend use of face coverings and does not recommend use of respirators, except to the extent they're used to protect against excessive dust and to the extent they are available.

Respirators are sometimes used to protect against the spores that cause valley fever and for other reasons, such as the application of crop-protection materials.

Little noted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends use of face covers as a means of protecting uninfected people from those who are infected but asymptomatic.

"We suggest farm employers follow the Cal/OSHA recommendations," he said.

The COVID-19 News & Resources page on the FELS website includes a link to the CalOSHA guidance document: www.fels.net.

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.




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