Agriculture health and safety during COVID-19
Find resources, best practices and information to help keep your workers safe and healthy, and your business in operation, during COVID-19.
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During the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, we all need to do our part to keep workers, customers and the public safe and healthy so we can stop the spread and prepare to reopen the province, when we are ready.
Below are a set of resources, tips and best practices to help employers and employees prevent the spread of COVID-19 and work together to reopen the province.
Employers and workers in Ontario have certain duties and rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. Employers should also review and follow any applicable directives and guidance coming from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and Ministry of Health.
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Everyone working in the agriculture sector needs to consider how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work, including:
- farm and greenhouse workers
- equipment operators
- maintenance workers
- truck drivers
- administrative staff
If your workplace employs temporary foreign workers, they are required to follow certain obligations upon newly entering Canada from abroad, including self-isolation.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 everyone should comply with requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and with associated regulations and public health directives issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Protecting yourself and your co-workers
Coronaviruses are spread through close contact with others. Here are some helpful tips to help prevent the spread of germs at home or in the workplace:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Wash or sanitize hands after making or receiving deliveries.
- Sneeze and cough into your sleeve.
- If you use a tissue, discard immediately and wash your hands afterward.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Avoid high-touch areas, where possible, or ensure you clean your hands after.
- If you are ill: notify your supervisor immediately, complete the self-assessment and follow the instructions.
Physical distancing (two meters)
As advised by the Chief Medical Officer and public health officials, physical distancing is required to control the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Here are some tips employers can use in order to help ensure physical distancing in the workplace on site:
- Stagger start times, shifts, breaks, and lunch times.
- Restrict the number of people on-site and where they are assigned to work.
- Control site movement (by limiting the potential for workers to gather).
- Limit the number of people working in one space at the same time.
- Minimize the number of people using each piece of equipment in instances where sharing equipment cannot be avoided.
- Hold meetings in an outside or large space.
- Limit unnecessary on-site interaction between workers, and with outside service providers.
- Install barriers between workers where practical, such as; this can include plexiglass.
Coronaviruses are spread person to person through close contact, including at work. While employers always have an obligation to maintain clean worksites, that obligation is under sharper focus due to COVID-19.
Here are some tips for employers to use:
- Allow employees to properly clean their hands, by providing access to soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Have all employees and visitors wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before entering the workplace and after contact with surfaces others have touched.
- Have all employees and visitors wash their hands.
- Encourage handwashing before breaks and at shift changes.
- Provide a safe place for workers to dispose of used sanitizing wipes and personal protective equipment.
- Clean washroom facilities regularly.
- Sanitize commonly touched surfaces or areas such as entrances, counters, washrooms and kitchens.
- Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces in the housing provided for workers.
- Sanitize shared equipment (where sharing of equipment cannot be avoided).
- Post hygiene instructions in English or French and all majority workplace languages so everyone can understand how to do their part.
Adjust on-site and production schedules
Lowering staff levels on job sites may be required to maintain appropriate physical distancing. Employers should look at how they can may be required to adjust their production schedules to support the impacts of physical distancing, where possible becomes clear.
Here are some tips for employers to follow:
- Limit the number of workers to critical number by staggering work schedules.
- Consider job rotation.
- Reschedule any unnecessary visits to the workplace by supply chain partners, vendors or others who don’t need to be there now.
- Ensure sanitation of sites and workspaces.
- Carry out site planning to facilitate appropriate physical distancing between workers.
- Establish rules for any work that requires workers within two metres of each other. This could include full personal protective equipment.
- Offer work-site mobility and transportation, including hoist operations.
Track your workforce
Due to the delayed period of COVID-19 (coronavirus spread) spread, it is important to track where workers have been. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the local public health unit will ask employers to provide information on where the employee worked as well as the contact information of any other employee who may have been exposed. Employers will provide that information and Public Health Units will respond.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other illnesses, including the cold and flu. At this time, it is recommended that any worker who has symptoms related to cold, flu or COVID-19 be sent home. Public Health Ontario has provided helpful guidance on self-monitoring and self-isolation.
In addition, employers should advise these workers to complete the online self-assessment or call either:
- their primary care provider (for example, family physician)
Workers with COVID-19
If you believe one of your workers may have COVID-19 or has tested positive for the disease, you should conduct a risk assessment.
Based on the results, ministry inspectors may require the employer to:
- inform co-workers who were exposed
- ask those workers to self-isolate and self-monitor and report any COVID-like illness to their employer
- shut down the job site while the affected workplace and equipment are disinfected
- implement other measures based on the advice of public health officials
Getting information on infection prevention and control
Employers can contact local public health units for questions on workplace infection prevention and control related to COVID-19 infections.
It is important that all parties in a workplace communicate their roles and responsibilities. Employers must ensure health and safety policies are updated and posted for all workers to see. Using industry resources, including this one and those produced by the Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS), will improve on-site understanding.
Post your policies
All employers need to post and communicate COVID-19 policies to workers.
These policies should cover how the workplace will operate, including, but not limited to:
- the sanitization of the workplace
- how workers report illnesses
- how to ensure physical distancing
- how work will be scheduled
- screening measures
Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development reporting requirements
If an employer is advised that a worker has COVID-19 due to exposure at the workplace, or that a claim has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), the employer is required to notify:
- the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within four days
- the workplace joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative
- a trade union (if applicable)
COVID-19 resources for the agriculture sector
Targeted COVID-19 workplace testing campaigns on farms
Guidance for employers and workers related to positive tests for workers without symptoms found during targeted testing campaigns.
Farming operations hiring contract workers
What employers need to know when hiring contract workers during COVID-19.
From Workplace Safety and Prevention Services:
- Agricultural supervisors (also available in Spanish) [PDF]
- Agricultural workers (also available in Spanish) [PDF]
- Using temporary help in agriculture [PDF]
From the Ministry of Health:
From the WSIB :
- Foreign Agricultural Workers Program
- Information for foreign agricultural workers and their employers (also available in Spanish)
Posters and tip sheet:
- Stay 2 metres apart while working (also available in Spanish) [PDF]
- Maintain space between crew members during transport (also available in Spanish) [PDF]
- General COVID-19 health and safety tip sheet (also available in Spanish) [PDF]
COVID-19 government updates
Stay updated with daily government updates:
Ontario government and agency-issued resources about COVID-19
The Ontario Ministry of Health is providing consistent updates on the provincial government’s response to the outbreak, including:
- status of cases in Ontario
- current affected areas
- symptoms and treatments
- how to protect yourself and self-isolate
- updated Ontario news on the virus
Public Health Ontario is providing up-to-date resources on COVID-19, including:
- links to evolving public health guidelines, position statements and situational updates
- synopsis of key articles updating on the latest findings related to the virus
- recommendations for use of personal protective equipment
- information on infection prevention and control
- testing information
- other public resources
Other COVID-19 resources
Health Canada outlines the actions being taken by the Government of Canada to limit spread of the virus, as well as what is happening in provinces and communities across the country. It also maintains a live update of the number of cases by province.
The World Health Organization is updating the latest guidance and information related to the global outbreak and spread beyond Canadian borders.
It also provides the most up-to-date information on:
- current research and development around the virus
- a COVID-19 situation “dashboard”
- emergency preparedness measures
- live media updates on the spread of the virus
This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply the law based on the facts in the workplace.