To assist with protecting the essential workers who work in the agricultural industry, California’s Department Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal OSHA”) issued updated guidance on coronavirus (“COVID-19”) infection prevention procedures for employers in the agricultural industry.

While the guidance does not impose new legal obligations on employers, the guidance is meant to assist agricultural employers in their efforts to prevent and minimize the spread of COVID-19. The guidance also provides helpful information on details Cal OSHA expects will be addressed in an employer’s amendments to their Injury Illness Prevention Program (“IIPP”) in response to potential COVID-19 exposures.

Like all employers in California, who are operating under applicable state and local public health orders, agricultural employers must provide training to employees on COVID-19, including symptoms of COVID-19 and potential sources of exposure to the virus, along with methods for preventing and minimizing risks of exposure, including use of cloth face coverings, social distancing measures, and good hygiene practices (e.g. frequent hand washing).

The guidance also recommends that agricultural employers detailing specific procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their IIPPs including:

  • Sending employees with COVID-19 symptoms home or obtaining medical care for them as needed.
  • Establishing procedures to notify local health officials when someone has a COVID-19 infection.
  • Encouraging sick workers to stay home.
  • Advising employees who stay home with symptoms not to return to work until at least 3 days after recovery and 10 days after the original onset of symptoms, per CDC guidance.
  • Making hand-washing stations more readily available and encouraging frequent hand washing.
  • Establishing enhanced procedures for cleaning and disinfection.

Cal OSHA’s guidance further recommends that agricultural employers establish procedures to ensure that workers can maintain effective social distancing, such as adjusting line speeds, staggering work shifts and breaks, limiting crew sizes, and providing additional seating and shade structures

Finally, the guidance provides additional resources for agricultural employers including state and federal guidelines.

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