The Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) is analyzing possible rulemaking by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration, aka Oregon OSHA, that would establish more stringent temporary standards for agricultural field sanitation and farmworker housing, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We support keeping workers and families safe, but we have concerns that some of the suggested regulatory measures don’t reflect the realities in the field,” OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone told Member Update.
Oregon OSHA is considering the move following a petition submitted by farmworker advocates the Oregon Law Center and the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center. The agency announced (PDF) last Friday it would take comments on the matter. The OAN plans to submit comments and is developing those now.
Among other requests, the petition (PDF) asks the state to require that farms provide one handwashing facility and one toilet in the field for every five workers, each located no more than 360 feet from where the work is taking place, and clean them three times daily.
“Production methods and worker placement vary greatly depending on the type of crop and even between operations,” Stone said. “Farmworker crews can cover a lot of ground, and that’s especially true now for nurseries during the peak season. We know our growers are already addressing social distancing and sanitary practices in their worker training. We will advocate for flexibility, where OSHA provides broad principles while allowing growers to determine how best to protect their workers, taking into account the conditions on their farm.”
The petition also includes a series of recommendations pertaining to farmworker housing, health care access and training related to protecting workers against retaliation for complaints.
If you have feedback on the petition, or the impact on your business, contact Jeff Stone at email@example.com.