Workplaces are advised to have employees work from home wherever possible, and to maintain distance between employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. While this is easily executed in office-based workplaces, horticulture operations still require manual labour to complete most tasks.
“Growers are taking extra precautions with their workforce to ensure strict biosecurity protocols are in place and adhered to,” says Dr. Justine Taylor, science and government relations manager at Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG). “Additional documentation on hand washing protocols and tips for self-monitoring have been distributed to our membership, and as an organization we are monitoring the situation closely.”
To keep farm business operators up-to-date with COVID-19 protocols, the Canadian Agriculture Human Resources Council (CAHRC) has created a dedicated webpage with the latest information, recommendations, employee management tools. “These details will help you respond to the pandemic and limit the impact and spread of COVID-19 within your business.”
In addition to handwashing protocols and self-isolation practices, farms are being encouraged to restrict or limit visitors. Surfaces should be cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant and operators to continue to with biosecurity and food safety standards.
“Businesses that provide housing for their workers will need to ensure their risk management plan considers large numbers of employees being quarantined or requiring health care,” notes the CAHRC.
Risk management plans lay out a number of factors including identifying decision makers and their roles and responsibilities, access to medical care, as well as plans for both quarantine or transportation to medical facilities. “They should also include communications planning such as who is the point of contact, medical contacts, internal and external communication plans, contact information for all staff, suppliers, community services.”
The risk management plan should include action items for times when a large fraction of the staff is unavailable for time-sensitive work due to illness. “This may include having agreements with surrounding farmers for back up support,” adds the CAHRC.
Greenhouses receiving foreign workers should monitor advisories from the government departments responsible for the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, advises CAHRC.
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