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CDC Pinpoints Ways Employers Can Keep Shared Housing Safe for Farmworkers

June 17, 2020

With national and local economies slowly reopening in the aftermath of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided special guidance to agricultural employers who provide shared housing to their workforce.

How can employers stop the spread of COVID-19?

Employers should offer basic guidance about COVID-19, and steps they are taking to prevent transmission, in languages farmworkers understand. Family members should be kept together in housing facilities. Grouped or cohorted workers can be considered a single household or family.

Most importantly, employers should provide a dedicated and isolated space for farmworkers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. That unique space should include sleeping quarters, kitchens and restrooms. This will allow workers to recover without infecting others.

What sanitation measures can employers put in place?

To enhance sanitation within shared housing, employers should:

  • Provide disposable gloves, soap for hand washing and household cleaners
  • Develop and implement enhanced sanitation and cleaning plans

To ensure living quarters are disinfected, employers should make sure:

  • Shared rooms have good air flow
  • Common areas are routinely cleaned following CDC guidelines
  • Residents know how to regularly clean and sanitize living quarters following CDC guidelines

To ensure cooking and eating areas, bathrooms and laundry facilities are disinfected, employers should provide:

  • Cleaning supplies for shared cooking utensils and shared appliances
  • Access to laundry facilities with posted laundry guidelines (for example, restrict the number of people allowed in laundry rooms at one time to ensure social distancing or avoid shaking dirty laundry)
  • Appropriate storage options for reusable personal protective equipment to prevent cross-contamination

How can employers encourage social distancing?

Employers should support social distancing at all times farmworkers are housed in employer-provided housing. This includes when workers are recreating, cooking and sleeping. To achieve this, employers should:

  • Modify common areas to encourage social distancing
  • Consider adding physical barriers, such as plastic flexible screens, between bathroom sinks when there are multiple sinks and between beds when beds cannot be 6 feet apart
  • Conduct meetings and conversations outdoors to minimize congregating in close quarters if possible and if environmental conditions allow
  • Encourage residents to wear cloth face coverings in shared spaces, besides:
    • Young children under age 2
    • Those who have trouble breathing
    • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance

What other measures should employers consider?

  • Instituting daily health checks and reporting to supervisors before and during the housing period to identify illnesses early
  • Establishing isolation plans for farmworkers with COVID-19

Please contact Brandon Davis or any other member of Phelps’ Labor and Employment team if you have questions or need compliance advice and guidance. For more information related to COVID-19, see Phelps’ COVID-19: Client Resource Portal.