New COVID-19 Interim Guidance for Agriculture Workers and Employers Announced

Harris02In response to ongoing challenges from COVID-19, CDC & USDA have issued interim guidance for agriculture workers and employers. The newly released guidance states that workers on farms, ranches, and other production agriculture work sites are considered critical infrastructure workers within the food and agriculture sector. The guidance urges all agriculture work sites to follow to the extent feasible, relevant aspects of CDC guidance. Key points are listed below, or you can click here for the full guidance, resources, and more information on the CDC website.

Key Points:

  • Management in the agriculture industry should conduct work site assessments to identify coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) risks and infection prevention strategies to protect workers.
  • Work site guidance for COVID-19 prevention and control should be taken into consideration in employer-furnished shared worker housing, transportation vehicles and work settings.
  • Prevention practices should follow the hierarchy of controls, which includes using source control and a combination of engineering controls, administrative controls (especially proper sanitation, cleaning, and disinfection), and personal protective equipment.
  • Grouping workers together into cohorts may reduce the spread of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace by minimizing the number of different individuals who come into close contact with each other over the course of a week, and may also reduce the number of workers quarantined because of exposure to the virus.
  • Owners/operators should maximize opportunities to place farmworkers residing together in the same vehicles for transportation and in the same cohorts to limit exposure.
  • Basic information and training about infection prevention should be provided to all farmworkers in languages they can understand.
  • Agriculture work sites developing plans for continuing operations where COVID-19 is spreading among workers or in the surrounding community should work directly with appropriate state and local public health officials and occupational safety and health professionals.

On June 1st, EPA issued a statement regarding respiratory protection shortages and reduced availability of respirator fit testing related to pesticide uses covered by the agricultural Worker Protection Standard during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  EPA has heard from states and stakeholders about Personal Protective Equipment shortages in the agricultural sector. To respond to these reports and to help ensure the health and safety of America’s farmers, EPA is providing temporary guidance regarding respiratory protection requirements for agricultural pesticide handlers. Its guidance aligns with recent OSHA memos on respirators while addressing EPA’s responsibilities under FIFRA and the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS).  Below is the direct link to the statement:  https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/statement-regarding-respiratory-protection-shortages-and-reduced-availability-respirator

For a full list of EPA’s COVID-19 Enforcement and Compliance Resources see this link:  https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/covid-19-enforcement-and-compliance-resources

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