By: Matt McIntosh
During these days of social distancing and other pandemic-suppressing measures, farmers and agribusiness professionals are asking who should be granted access to the farm and facilities and looking at how to manage access.
Understand how the virus spreads
Ayoob Ghalami is a senior biosafety officer for the Research Oversight and Compliance Office at the University of Toronto, as well as a researcher involved with labs studying COVID-19. He says farmers, agri-business and food processors need to focus on what risk-reduction measures to take while ensuring their businesses can continue functioning.
While much about COVID-19 remains unknown, Ghalami says the main mode of transmission is understood – and is key to mitigating risk.
“Asymptomatic people are still infectious,” he says and recommends that proper hygiene and other safety measures are followed. Just like high contact areas everywhere, Ghalami says simple sanitization methods can be used to help negate possible virus transmission.
“Bleach is still one of the strongest disinfectants we have, but it will corrode your machines. So make sure to follow the recipes and don’t overdo it,” Ghalami says. Disinfectant recipes for a variety of registered food-safety solutions are available via Health Canada.
Supporting employees and close family
In cases where employees are critical to the farm operation, Ghalami says to let them know it’s OK for them not to come in if they feel unwell, and that financial support is available in these circumstances.
Day-to-day operations can still require family members to work near one another. In cases where social distancing isn’t possible, Gahlami reiterates there are other ways farm families can work together to limit exposure, such as working in rotating shifts or installing barriers between workers.
As well, set up guidelines on distancing for family members not required for the farm or business to function, even if it means not allowing them on-farm.
While telling a close relative they aren’t allowed to visit during the self-isolation period may be awkward, closing the farm gate to unnecessary visitors is critical to helping end the spread of the virus. Designating a single point of contact for farm visitors is another way to control farm access.
Deciding who to allow on the farm right now is straightforward. In the interest of distancing, allow only essential colleagues, workers and family on-farm. Provide them with proper sanitation tools, such as hand sanitizer or hand-wash stations, and implement social distancing rules.