Building Resilience through COVID-19 Health and Safety

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Sharing information on how to take care of ourselves, our employees and our customers.

As we move toward reopening our businesses and lives, we need to make sure we are prepared for doing things differently. Taking care of ourselves, our employees and our customers will require planning ahead to make sure we have COVID-19 safety in mind.

We are getting used to wearing our cloth face coverings in public, and maintaining 6-foot physical distance from others. These practices also apply to our farms, and when we are interacting with the public. Health and safety precautions, such as providing hand sanitizer for employees and the public, will take some planning ahead.

Below we share some important resources to help you plan. We will continue to update our farm resilience resource page as new information becomes available.


Cornell Cooperative Extension Distributing Free Hand Sanitizer and Masks to Farms

CCE has been working with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to find ways to assist farmers with continuing their operations while improving safety precautions.

Through CCE offices, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) is distributing 500,000 face masks to essential farm workers across the state. Also being distributed is hand sanitizer, produced in New York State and secured by NYSDAM.

Across the state, CCE offices have mobilized to receive and distribute hand sanitizer and masks to New York farmers, free of charge. Farmers can contact their local CCE office to request masks and sanitizer for their employees and retail areas.

Meanwhile, the Cornell Farmworker Program is also working hard to protect farmworkers. Anyone can get involved with the #4HMaskTask to help make reusable cloth masks for communities in need. These collaborations are evolving and ongoing.


How to Effectively Use Cloth Face Coverings

 

In New York State, there is an Executive Order on the use of face coverings to limit the spread of COVID-19. It mandates that “any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face-covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, social distance.”

The CDC recommends that these cloth face coverings should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
  • be secured with ties or ear loops.
  • include multiple layers of fabric.
  • allow for breathing without restriction.
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

Providing Face Coverings to Your Employees

New York State has also issued guidance that all employees who interact with the public must wear cloth face coverings. You may have family members that are interacting with the public.

These recommendations apply to them, as well as those paid to work on the farm:

  • Provide employees with cloth face coverings and gloves.
  • Cloth face coverings must be used by employees if they are interacting with customers. These coverings must be provided by the farm.
  • Instruct employees on proper use, storage, and washing of face coverings.
  • It is recommended that one, five-pack of masks should be provided per employee.

Observing the Recommended 6-Foot Social Distancing

New York State’s guidance all states that we must observe a 6-foot physical distance from others. The virus is transmitted person to person through respiratory droplets, which is why this 6-foot physical distancing is so important.

As you prepare for employees and farm customers, you should:

  • Welcome people with a smile and a wave, but at a distance. No hugging or handshakes.
  • Post signs to emphasize physical distancing and hand sanitation.
  • Redesign customer flow to maintain physical distance.
  • Post signs at check-out to emphasize physical distancing while waiting.
  • Employees must maintain a 6-foot distance with each other and customers.
  • Enforce their use of cloth face coverings.
  • Consider installing clear plastic shields or dividers between employees and customers.

Maintaining a Clean and Sanitary Workplace

Establish a cleaning and sanitizing standard operating procedure (SOP) for frequently touched surfaces, such as tables, scale platforms, registers, other electronics, chairs, cash boxes, hand rails and port-a-john handles. Write these down and implement them daily.

For an example SOP that you can adapt to your farm, check out the Sanitation and Postharvest Handling Decision Tree.

Follow this four-step process for cleaning and sanitizing high-touch surfaces:

  • Remove visible dirt and debris.
  • Wash with soap and water or appropriate detergent.
  • Rinse the surface of debris and detergent.
  • Sanitize with a food contact surface approved sanitizer.

Emphasize hand washing and sanitation as recommended for food safety in general.

  • Upon arriving at work, before and after eating, after using the restroom.
  • Provide training on how to properly wash hands.
  • Emphasize hand sanitation between customers.
  • The University of Minnesota created a low-cost hand washing station DIY.

Make sure you have an adequate stock of hand sanitizer:

  • About 750 ‘servings’ (about 5 mls) of hand sanitizer are in a gallon.
  • If one employee uses sanitizer 6 times in a day (at start and end of day, before and after lunch, before and after restroom visit), then a gallon would last approximately 125 days.
  • If you have a farm stand or U-Pick farm, and customers are using sanitizer 4 times (at start and end of visit and before and after checkout), a gallon would be enough for about 190 customer visits.

Instruct employees on proper use of disposable gloves for when dealing with customers or when using gloves as PPE during sanitation practice:

  • Wash hands before putting on new gloves.
  • Remove gloves before breaks, meals or toilet visits.
  • Take off gloves in a way that avoids touching the outside of the glove with either hand and dispose.
  • Wash hands.
  • Put on new gloves before starting work again.
  • If gloves are worn at check in or check out, sanitation between transactions must still be observed.

Encourage employees to arrive each day wearing clean clothes. Also, encourage employees to wash their farm clothes separately from other clothes.


Taking these proactive steps will protect your team and your customers and create a positive experience on the farm during this pandemic.


For Additional Information:

The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has created an official COVID-19 resource page offering details and latest guidance as it relates to agriculture in the state.

The Cornell Small Farms Program is keeping a list of resources for farms to build resiliency through potential impacts from COVID-19.

The Cornell EDEN website is the hub of information for COVID-19 issues and resources.

The Cornell Ag Workforce is a great resource for updates on labor management issues and programs and policies related to ag workforce issues and COVID-19.

The Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University answers questions around the risks associated with food production with useful links to expert resources to ensure that a safe and robust food supply is maintained.

Kacey Deamer

Kacey Deamer

Kacey is the Cornell Small Farms Program’s communications specialist. In this role, she manages all storytelling and outreach across the program’s website, social media, e-newsletter, magazine and more. Kacey has worked in communications and journalism for more than a decade, with a primary focus on science and sustainability.
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