Minimising the Risk of COVID-19 on Your Farm
The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way Australians live their lives, from major cities to rural towns. These changes have caused industry wide suspensions of business, except for those deemed essential and those which can operate from home. The threat of COVID-19 on farms is daunting. For farmers and others in agriculture, this is changing the way things get done.
Risks of COVID-19 on Farms
Farmers and agricultural workers are in close contact with each other just about all day. The virus’s high transmission is a serious challenge for people working in close proximity industries. Closeness might be at any time of the day – when eating, working, even living – and this makes social distancing on a farm especially difficult. Even so, everyone has to maintain a 1.5m distance from each other. Some effective ways to limit social interaction between farm workers include:
- Postponing all non-essential meetings
- Review of jobs that require close interaction and finding ways to increase distancing
- Communicating remotely with phones and walkie talkies, etc.
- Limiting personnel numbers and splitting workers’ shifts
- Placing signage about COVID-19 and physical distancing around the workplace
Keeping people and equipment clean is paramount to preventing the spread – but that’s easier said than done on a farm. As is the case with all preventative recommendations, clear communication about hygiene to your workers is essential. People should wash their body, hair and clothes thoroughly every day. Get used to washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds – hand sanitiser should also be plentiful and accessible. You and your staff need to avoid close contact with each other at all times, this means no handshakes or other touching of that nature. People should never spit and should always leave their cigarette butts in a bin. As a preventative measure, it doesn’t get much more important than hygiene. Take the time to make sure you and your workers are all on the same page.
Deliveries and Contractors
First and foremost, you should cancel non-essential workplace visits. While this might be a major inconvenience, it’s what we’ve all got to deal with at the moment. You’ll need to make sure that delivery staff and contractors who come in are up to speed on your workplace requirements. Ensure receiving deliveries is a contact free process when possible and see what alternatives there are to signatures for delivery confirmation.
Farmers will continue to be needed to feed our country in this uncharted territory we’re all in. Agriculture will need to continue despite whatever happens with restrictions. People in this sector need to be proactive and sure of the health and safety measures they must use, because avoiding contact and being clear on workplace policy and hygiene will go a long way in protecting the people on your farm.