Agricultural employers must take immediate action to put in place new directives from the state government. Key things employers will need to do include the following:
- Provide PPE to employees
- Require employees to wear masks when not working alone
- Ensure physical distancing
- Check temperatures of employees each day
Disinfect workplaces routinely
- Ensure routine employee handwashing
- Develop a COVID response plan and provide employee training
- Adopt workplace policies necessary for implementing these requirements
More information on these requirements can be found below.
Background: On May 28, 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee issued Proclamation 20-57 concerning the health of agricultural workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The intended purpose is to keep farmworkers safe from exposure to coronavirus. The proclamation requires agricultural employers to meet new worker safety requirements. By June 4, 2020, all agricultural employers must have the requirements in place or risk enforcement actions by the state. These requirements will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency.
Documents: The proclamation can be found here. The list of new requirements is here.
Requirements: The proclamation lays out sanitation and PPE requirements for workers and employers. Please see the original proclamation and requirement documents for specifics. The key provisions are summarized below.
Personal Protective Equipment: Employers must provide PPE to employees at no cost to the employee. PPE means “face coverings, masks, respirators, gloves, and any other equipment needed to protect against hazards, including chemicals and COVID-19.” This list includes gloves, goggles, face shields, and face masks. PPE must be clean and available each workday. Cloth facial coverings must be worn by every employee not working alone on the job site.
Physical Distancing: Employers must ensure physical distancing of at least six feet between employees during all interactions of employment. When strict physical distancing is not feasible for a specific task, other prevention measures must be taken. Examples include more protective PPE, barriers, and negative pressure ventilation.
Workplace Disinfection: Employers must ensure high-touch surfaces are disinfected prior to the start of the workday and before and after all breaks. For night shifts, the same frequency of disinfecting is required.
Providing Handwashing Stations: Employers must supply adequate handwashing stations at every location and at all times that employees are working. All stations must have soap, tepid water, disposable paper towels, and a trash can. Hand sanitizer is not an adequate substitute for handwashing stations, but it must be provided in high-traffic locations where a handwashing station is impractical.
Using Handwashing Stations: Employers “must put in place adequate measures to ensure, at a minimum, that employees wash their hands for more than 20 seconds at the following intervals”: Arrival and departure from the worksite and prior to and after the first rest break, meal break, and second rest break.
Training: Employers must provide training to employees regarding COVID-19. This training includes required posters and safety protocols. The requirements include very specific minimum standards. See pages 3 and 4 of the requirements for that information.
COVID-19 Response Plan: Employers must have and maintain a COVID-19 response plan. The plan must be available to all employees. The plan must include specific items such as procedures for disinfecting areas where a symptomatic employee was present, notice to employees who were possibly exposed to COVID-19, and notice of employee rights and benefits. These items are covered in more detail on page 4 of the requirements.
Temperature Checks: At the beginning of each day, employers must conduct temperature checks of and review the symptom checklist with employees concerning themselves and their households. If an employee’s temperature is above 100.4 degrees, that employee has a fever and should be sent home. Thermometers must be properly sanitized between each use or each day.
Testing: “To the extent feasible, employers must ensure timely access to COVID-19 tests for symptomatic employees and must provide transportation as needed. Employers must designate a person or person who will be readily identifiable as the testing facilitators.”
Best Practices: Employers must stay up to date with guidance issued by the CDC, L&I, and DOH and should make every effort to implement all best practices to further protect employees.
Employee Rights: An employee may refuse to perform unsafe work, and it is unlawful for an employer to take adverse action against such an employee. Such employees may have access to certain leave and unemployment benefits.
Other Health Requirements: Employers must comply with all requirements of WAC 246-101 (communicable diseases) and any orders issued by local health jurisdictions.
In addition, the requirements spell out more details for outdoor worksites, indoor worksites, employer-provided transportation, and temporary worker housing. For these sites, employers are required to implement a physical distancing plan, which must describe the ways in which a minimum of six feet of distancing will be achieved in all circumstances. For tasks where six feet of distancing is not feasible, the plan must describe the physical barriers used, negative pressure ventilation used, the higher level of PPE provided and used, and the administrative controls used to reduce interactions. Employers must ensure that tools, implements, and other equipment not be shared without being fully wipe-sanitized between uses.
Suggestions for Implementation:
- Adopt policies implementing these new requirements. Train employees to them and have employees sign the new policies.
- Document as much as possible. In case of an audit, inspection, and/or enforcement by a state agency, you will want and need to show what steps you have taken to protect employee safety.
- Contact agricultural trade associations, and/or your co-op field representative with questions. Use L&I’s consultation services for assistance on this and other workplace safety issues.