Safety Risks for Farmers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Farmers and ranchers face unique safety risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since planting season is in full swing. Physical distancing becomes difficult as farmers receive seed and chemical deliveries. Shipments of seed bags and chemical containers arrive on trucks that have been to other farms. This could spell trouble if precautions are not taken.

The National Institutes of Health reports that the virus can survive up to three days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces and up to 24 hours on paper surfaces.

In order to limit the risks to a farm

Limit traffic in and out of the farm. Ask to be there when delivery trucks arrive. Maintain a 6-foot distance from the delivery person.

On many farms, delivery people use the farm’s tractor or forklift to unload supplies. To reduce the risk of virus spread, be sure that no one other than yourself operates the equipment. This creates additional planning and work, but it reduces risk of transferring the virus as multiple people take turns at operating equipment.

Keep sanitizing supplies in commonly used areas such as tractor cabs and sheds. Wipe down doorknobs, steering wheels, radio knobs, grab handles, fuel tank covers and other surfaces that people might touch.

Consider how to communicate with suppliers and employees during the crisis. Harness

technology to help communicate safely by using the telephone, email or a tablet. Text work plans to employees instead of holding daily meetings in the shed or kitchen table. Take pictures of a broken part to send to the parts dealer. Call ahead to make sure the parts are in stock and ask the dealer to place the part outside the door.

Farms face special risks because up to three generations of one family may still actively work on the farm.

Mealtimes and childcare might include grandparents, who may be at higher risk of infection of COVID- 19. Even within families, maintain safe practices such as distancing. Wipe down surfaces frequently and try to minimize contacts. Also, consider how to safely handle food taken to the field and other meals during planting season. Develop a written contingency plan in case someone involved with the farm becomes ill from the virus. Decide who can fill vital roles and share this plan with those involved.

During this unique time, maintain equipment, develop and follow safety protocols and above all, make health and safety a priority.

For more information contact Valerie Tate, field specialist in agronomy for University of Missouri

Extension at tatev@missouri.edu or call 660-895-5123. MU Extension programs are open to all.

Valerie Tate is a field specialist in agronomy for the University of Missouri Extension.