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UWEX gives COVID-19 tips for farm employers

The Brillion News

The following, COVID-19 Guidance for Farm Employers, was issued by the University of Wisconsin-Extension. The Brillion News is providing it as a public service to our many farm subscribers:

Farms have unique challenges with the rapidly spreading COVID-19. Make sure your employees understand that your primary concern is their health and the health of their families, and measures are in place to ensure long and productive careers at your farm. Organize your communication to keep employees informed on local developments, staffing shortages, shipments and deliveries. Provide information at set times and (or) a central location to ease anxiety and ensure employee questions are answered. Keep your message simple and inform employees of what is happening, what the farm is doing and what employees need to do.

Take these steps now to minimize the impact COVID-19 has on your farm and minimize risk to family and friends: • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home, emphasize respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene by all employees and provide special attention to workers at high risk (older workers and underlying health conditions): o Farm workers who arrive at work feeling ill or become sick while at work should be isolated from other employees and sent home immediately. o Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at entrances and within your workplace where they are likely to be seen. • Perform routine cleaning: o Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, and visit the detailed cleaning and sanitizing recommendations. o Take extra sanitation precautions in employee breakrooms, rest rooms, and other areas where your team meets. Wipe down surfaces like countertops, light switches, food preparation areas, commonly used equipment, time clocks, tool handles, steering wheels, and doorknobs.

o Encourage employees to wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds and provide hand sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60% alcohol. • Provide accurate information and instructions from trusted sources: o Wisconsin-specific information about COVID-19 including fact sheets in English, Chinese, Spanish, Hmong (WI Department Heath Services). o Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their health. o If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain health record confidentiality and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their health. o Information on medical attention and health insurance including telemedicine (a doctor’s visit on a computer, smart phone or tablet) fact sheets in English and Spanish (UW-Madison) • COVID19 is caused by a novel coronavirus (unique to other coronavirus) and there is no approved vaccine for COVID-19. This pandemic disease has caused a global crisis. Discourage all travel at this time and encourage “social distancing” as the best way to show concern for family and friends here or in a different country.


Managing Visitors and Deliveries to Farms

Agriculture in Wisconsin is a leading industry generating $104 billion per year. Farms are the origin of the food industry. The health of farmers is instrumental at the start of a safe and secure system. For this reason, farmers and those providing service to farms are identified as essential for Americans. Farms should consider all avenues of potential virus spread and develop protocols to reduce risk of disease.

There are no boundary lines for diseases so precautions are needed and not use “we are rural” for not taking precautions. Farms need to follow their biosecurity plans and protocols. If a farm does not have a biosecurity plan, one should be developed as soon as possible.

Follow all recommended cleaning, sanitizing, and hand washing protocols.

Farm service providers ✓ Develop a protocol when service providers arrive on the farm. These protocols will vary for different providers. ✓ Providers should have phone numbers for the contact person responsible. Depending on size of operation, it may all go to the farmer or may have shared responsibilities. ✓ Product providers such as feed, seed, fertilizer, and crop protection products should be informed ahead of arrival onto the farm where product should be delivered, unloaded, or applied in order to allow proper physical distancing with farmers or employees. This practice will help reduce risk to the service provider employee. ✓ Provide veterinarians and animal care professionals with specific directions of where animals are located, where to park, and who to contact upon arrival. ✓ Attempt to keep enough resources on hand to be able to manage if backups are needed. This will minimize the number of times suppliers need to visit the farm. Have replacements for essential items at the farm to carry for a period should regularly scheduled replacement be disrupted. ✓ Post areas that service providers are not allowed to access. Restricted areas should include employee break room, bathroom facilities, offices, and any other areas frequently used by employees and family members of the farm. ✓ Practice cleaning and sanitation practices as supplies and packages are delivered to home, farm, and office areas. Daily correspondence ✓ Consider handling of daily mail, delivery of packages, dealing with invoices, Develop a protocol for individuals who handle these or similar tasks. Consider the time of day when these tasks get done to minimize interaction with others doing other tasks. ✓ Payment processing is another task to consider. Reduce handling of paper by switching accounts to online payments. ✓ If unplanned purchases are needed, consider who is the contact person to handle the purchase or request. ✓ Utilize email/text as much as possible to receive feed rations and other information rather than meeting face to face. ✓ Determine delivery or reception points. Use signage to direct individuals arriving on your farm to express respect for social and physical distancing parameters and provide a meeting location. ✓ Email/text or make delivery notes for on-line purchases with directions ahead of the delivery arriving to your farm. ✓ Respectfully share with visitors, including salespeople, neighbors, etc., your concerns about disease spread and ask that they call or email/text.


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