ensuring essential agribusiness workers can work safely detail

Updated Covid-19 Response Guidance: Ensuring Essential Agribusiness Workers Can Work Safely

01/19/2021 Written by: Gina Ekstam

On December 16, 2020, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) updated their guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers to support prioritization decisions related to COVID-19 vaccines, especially in the early stages with vaccines in short supply.

At the outset of the pandemic, CISA, in collaboration with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector, issued the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce Guidance for COVID-19 response to help officials and organizations protect workers and communities and ensure the continued safe and secure operation of critical infrastructure, by identifying essential critical infrastructure workers that may require specialized risk management strategies so that they can work safely.

As the response evolved, so has this guidance. With the arrival of vaccines, the country has entered a new phase in response to the pandemic. CISA’s latest version of the guidance includes updates to the list of essential workers in critical infrastructure work settings. This guidance is intended to be used as a tool to help officials plan and prepare for the allocation of scarce resources used to protect essential workers against COVID-19.

Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers in Food and Agriculture

The following are among the many workers identified as essential in food and agriculture:

  • Workers enabling the sale of human food, animal food, pet supply, and beverage products at groceries, pharmacies, convenience stores, and other retail.
  • Food manufacturer workers and their supplier workers.
  • Farmers, farm and ranch workers, and support service and supplier workers producing food supplies and other agricultural inputs for domestic consumption and export.
  • Workers and firms supporting the distribution of all human and animal food and beverage and ingredients used in these products.
  • Workers in animal diagnostic and food testing laboratories.
  • Workers of companies engaged in the production, storage, transport, and distribution of chemicals, drugs, biologics (e.g., vaccines), and other substances used by the human and agricultural food and agriculture industry.
  • Transportation workers supporting animal agricultural industries.
  • Workers engaged in the manufacture and maintenance of equipment and other infrastructure necessary for agricultural production and distribution.

CISA recommends creating a risk categorization methodology for worker safety. Factors to be considered include:

  1. Setting: Are workers indoors or outdoors?
  2. Proximity: How physically close are workers (and customers) to each other?
  3. Type of contact: Do workers touch shared surfaces, common items, and other workers or customers?
  4. Duration: How long does an average interaction last?
  5. Number of different contacts: How many interactions occur daily?
  6. Employee risk factors: Which workers face heightened risk due to their age or underlying medical conditions?
  7. Capability to assess possible infection: Are there screening protocols that protect workers (and customers) from interactions with contagious people?
  8. Cleaning: How frequently can the facility be sanitized and cleaned?

Agribusiness employers are encouraged to take a fresh look at the essential critical infrastructure worker list and the job functions of their workforce. Based on the responses to the risk categorization factors above, employers can categorize the conditions their workers face and implement measures to increase safety.

Ensuring that workers can continue performing essential work takes careful planning. To learn more about protecting your employees, contact the AssuredPartners Agribusiness team of specialists.

Source: CISA

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