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Worker Health, Hygiene, and Training

General Recommendations for Health & Hygiene on Your Farm

  1. Educate and empower your employees. Make sure each of your employees has the information they need for their particular job regarding food safety – remember, an employee who only harvests produce will need different information than an employee who works full time in the wash/pack house. Ensure that your employees know how to identify contaminated produce and know what to do if produce becomes contaminated or if they or another employee is sick.

The Bad Bug Book: Handbook of Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins (FDA)

The Most Common Foodborne Illnesses (FDA)

  1. Provide clean, well-stocked, readily accessible toilets and handwashing stations. You should have a toilet and hand washing facility available to workers and farm visitors at all times. If you hire a porta-potty company, remember that you can request more frequent maintenance if needed. See below for more information on how to build homemade handwashing stations.

How to build a field handwashing station in 10 easy steps for under $20 (NCSU Extension)
Handwashing Units: An Overview of Units for Small- to Large-Scale Agricultural Operations (NCSU Extension)

Improving Handwashing Stations (UVM Extension)

  1. Make sure all of your employees know when and how to wash their hands. This may sound petty, but it’s surprisingly easy to wash your hands “incorrectly”, or ineffectively. See the fact sheet below for some useful information to dispel common myths about handwashing

Washing Away Misconceptions About Gloves and Handwashing

  1. Educate visitors to your farm. Post signs about where visitors are welcome on the farm, where restrooms and handwashing facilities are located, not visiting the farm when they are sick, and keeping their pets at home.
  2. Create health and hygiene rules that fit your operation, write them down, and follow those rules yourself. Even with the best of health and hygiene intentions, if your workers see you ignoring the rules you’ve created, it will likely be nearly impossible to get them to follow the rules. Arbitrary rules that look great on paper but are not followed are useless.

 

Worker Training Guides and Videos

Employees (including family members!) should be trained when they begin employment, at the start of the season. Training should also happen as necessary throughout the season to reinforce key concepts or when new practices or equipment are introduced. Training should consist of the basic principles of food hygiene and safety and how to recognize the symptoms of foodborne illness. It should also include specific information about your particular farm practices and policies and be relevant to the jobs of the employees attending the training. Food safety training can generally be incorporated into orientation training or other required trainings, such as for the EPA Worker Protection Standards. Designing a food safety training program for your farm may seem like a daunting task. Here are a few resources that you can use to guide you, including slides or videos that you might incorporate into your training programs:

A Training Guide for Workers (Iowa State University) - PowerPoint, PDF, or Publisher 

Food Safety Field Training Flip Chart (Penn State Extension) - Hard copy for purchase

Farm Produce Safety Employee Training Videos (CISA) - Videos, English and Spanish

Food Safety Training Video Series (AgSafe) - Videos, English and Spanish

Essentials of Food Safety for Farmworkers (Cornell Extension) - Videos

Basics of Worker Training (MSU Extension) - Video

 

Organization and Efficiency

A broader concept that can be applied to health & hygiene on the farm, as well as worker training, is the concept of "lean production". This concept originated in the automobile industry but deals generally with minimizing waste while maintaining productivity and so can easily be applied to agriculture as well. Good business practices support financial viability and farm food safety. General organization, good recordkeeping, and effective communication and labor management are all essential for any business to succeed. Organization and efficiency are also key to preventing and managing produce contamination. See below for some suggestions for further reading on lean farming and farm business management that can also lead to improved farm food safety practices.

If you have other farm organization or business planning resources to recommend, send them to lmckeag@umass.edu


FSMA and Worker Health, Hygiene, & Training 

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