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Worker Hygiene & Training Are Essential on Farms

Posted by Josh Kaufman on 4/12/2017 to Ag - GAP

Farm workers have the responsibility of preventing crop contamination whenever they are in the fields or orchards. Each individual needs to take steps to ensure he or she does not contaminate produce. In addition, every worker should be knowledgeable about the various threats to produce safety so that they can recognize them and take the necessary action. In order to be successful in these endeavors, worker hygiene and training are essential.

Farm Worker Hygiene & Training Overview

Enforcing worker hygiene and implementing an effective training program require leadership and dedication. Farm owners and managers need to set good examples, provide workers with all the resources they need to maintain good hygiene, and remain diligent in the effort by verifying the effectiveness of policies and procedures and making changes where necessary. What is necessary will vary by farm, but there are some general guidelines developed by the National Good Agricultural Practices Program.

According to the Worker Health, Hygiene, and Training section of the program, owners and managers should focus on:

  • Developing a farm food safety plan that includes a worker health, hygiene, and training policy
  • Educating workers about food safety risks and how to identify and reduce risks
  • Providing workers with all the resources they need to do their jobs properly
  • Enforcing the proper use of toilets and handwashing facilities
  • Paying attention to the health of workers
  • Encouraging workers to report injuries and illnesses
  • Keeping records of all training sessions, illness and injury reporting, and other food safety practices such as toilet and handwashing facility monitoring and cleaning

Understanding & Reducing Risks

A farm food safety plan should help workers understand risks and provide them with solutions for reducing them. By establishing a training program, workers can get the knowledge they need to keep produce safe. Among the major requirements of the GAP program are:

  • Ensuring workers are clean and not sick before entering fields or handling produce
  • Ensuring workers do not urinate or defecate in the fields
  • Providing workers with clean and fully stocked toilet and handwashing facilities near their location and enforcing use

For more details, read our article Sanitation Tips for Field Workers & Packers.

According to the Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences, all full- and part-time workers, including supervisors, should have a good understanding of basic sanitation and hygiene principles.

Cater to Your Workers’ Needs

The ways in which you can get your workers to fully understand and practice proper hygiene may vary. It may require formal group presentations, one-on-one instruction, or demonstrations. One example of a demonstration that may be helpful is showing workers good handwashing technique by utilizing a portable sink. However, formal training may not always be practical. If this is the case in your situation, make sure a supervisor at least discusses the requirements and best practices with each worker. Good communication is key to success. If English is not the primary language of a worker or workers, make sure all essential information gets communicated to them in their preferred language so they can fully grasp what is expected of them. It’s also best to use farm-specific examples when training because that’s what workers will encounter on a daily basis.

Keep Hygiene Top of Mind

To uphold the highest hygiene standards, it’s important that the information and operating procedures remain on everyone’s minds. This means doing refresher training sessions or posting hygiene signs or posters. Any posted information should be easily understood by all workers, so bilingual messaging may be necessary. And, of course, owners and supervisors should lead by example by always practicing good hygiene as well. Reinforcement will reduce the chances of workers slipping up and being unsanitary near crops.

Free Educational Material

There is FREE educational material available on the SINKSNMORE website. Visit AgSinksTB.com. You can download the GAP Compliance Made Easy guide and request Toilet & Handwashing Compliance signs to post on your portable toilet and sink. They’re in English and Spanish and are good reminders for workers to practice good hygiene.

You can also receive 10% Off on All Online Orders when you use promo code AG2017TB.

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