Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

Protecting Workers on the Farm During COVID-19 Pandemic

Podcasts / Newsline May 5, 2020

Credit: John Boelts 

Farms across the country have policies in place to keep farmworkers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Micheal Clements has more on how one farm is protecting employees.

Clements: At the Washington Bulb Company, more than 70 million cut flowers are shipped all over the U.S. annually. At its peak, the farm employs roughly 500 employees, but has around 200 employees year-round. Washington Bulb Company Vice President Polly Welch says they quickly began implementing safety measures to protect workers from COVID-19.

Welch: It started with information signage, in all of our warehouse and all of our greenhouses we are requiring mask. Obviously, extra cleaning throughout the facility, social distancing, we staggered all of our breaks. And then we caught wind of our health department coming out with some emergency rules, and other than putting it written in our farm plan, we had already implemented everything.

Clements: Welch says the farm utilizes self-assessment signs at entry points to buildings that asks workers if they have developed any symptoms relatable to COVID-19.

Welch: Everybody stops, they read this every time they go in and out of the building. And then it says if you answer yes to any of these questions, do not enter this workplace, please return home immediately and call the office for assistance. We have had a few of those calls. Luckily, none of those people were positive.

Clements: Welch says the steps taken to protect employees during the COVID-19 pandemic follow the farm’s safety philosophy.

Welch: You’ve got to always look at everything as what’s good for the employee, what’s good for its customers, what’s good for the company, and all three of those things work hand-in-hand. When it all boiled down to it we were just worried about our employees, let’s keep everybody safe and alive. That’s kind of been our safety mantra, we want you to go home every night in the same condition that you came to work.

Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.

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