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Handlers: 3 Things to Discuss with Employees Regarding COVID-19

Handlers: 3 Things to Discuss with Employees Regarding COVID-19

3/26/2020

(March 27, 2020) – In the ever-changing Coronavirus (COVID-19) landscape, the Almond Board of California (ABC) is here to support handlers and other industry members by sharing timely, almond-specific information on what you need to know about managing your operation.

Many handlers are receiving information from various sources but want to know what they absolutely need to be communicating to their employees during this time.

Here are three things you as a handler need to discuss with your workers about how current legislation and guidance regarding COVID-19 impact them.

  1. If you feel sick, stay home. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of COVID-19 may include a fever, cough or shortness of breath. The CDC asks that employees seek medical advice if they develop any of these symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19. Here’s some materials you can provide your employees and place around your processing facility to ensure all are aware of these symptoms (courtesy of the Almond Alliance of California and the CDC). We recommend you print this information and post it near employee restrooms, hand washing stations and other areas around the plant.
  2. Your job is essential. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has identified all almond-related activities – growing, harvesting, hulling/shelling, handling, manufacturing, transportation and support activities – as a “Critical Infrastructure Sector.” According to DHS, those working in Critical Infrastructure Sectors “have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.” As such almond operations and their workers are not subject to stay at home requirements as specified in CA State Executive Order N-33-20. 

    This means that as a handler, your employees are not limited in the duties they may perform. Whatever work you would typically have your employees do during this time of year is considered “essential” and necessary under DHS’s rule. In addition, it is recommended that your employees are given a Critical Infrastructure Workforce Employee letter to keep in their vehicles to provide identification as a critical workforce employee to public transportation officials.

    Here are two sample templates that you may refer to when drafting this letter for employees:

   3. Wash your hands and follow the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). ABC’s GMPs are always relevant for implementation throughout your processing facility. Now, amidst COVID-19, they’re more important than ever. Review the Sanitary Facilities and Controls section with employees to ensure best practices are followed,  especially the essential practice of properly washing one’s hands.

In addition to these three discussion points, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. We encourage you to immediately provide this poster with information on paid leave entitlements, eligible employees and qualifying reasons for COVID-19-related leave to your employees.

If you have questions about COVID-19 and its impact on your operation, please contact ABC's Director of Quality Assurance and Industry Services Tim Birmingham at (209) 343-3222 or tbirmingham@almondboard.com.