Poultry and the Pandemic: Enhanced safety protocols
By Mark Beaven
Take these measures to further protect farm staff.
By Mark Beaven
While poultry producers have improved biosecurity practices to protect their flocks, the COVID-19 outbreak has demonstrated that farms and agri-business need to put in place protocols to protect their employees as well.
Disruptions in the food value chain have occurred due to farm or food processing employees testing positive for the virus. These occurrences have had a significant impact to both product price and supply.
The good news is that with the agricultural sector’s vast experience in pathogen spread prevention and biosecurity, it should be an easy task for producers to implement protocols designed specifically for employee health.
Poultry farmers are well versed in the need to prevent transmission in their birds, so now it is a simple case of taking that knowledge and using it to protect their work force and the public at large. Protecting the food supply chain for the population at large needs to be a priority, and farmers need to play their part in that.
What producers can do
So, what specifically can farm operations do when it comes to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 in their staff?
For one, limit the entrance to farm operations to essential staff and service personnel only. Reducing the intake of people to a farm reduces the chances of intoducing the COVID-19 virus. Farmers will continue to need outside contractors occasionally, but they need to make sure that the visit is essential to the continued operation of the production facility.
For employees and essential visitors, ensure they take steps to prevent the virus from entering the facility.
Insist that employees and visitors stay home if they are sick or have signs of illness (e.g., coughing, sneezing, fever) and that they seek medical attention if COVID-19 is suspected. Employees or outside visitors that suspect they either have or have been exposed to the virus must report this to the farm management.
Make sure that all employees and visitors wash their hands immediately upon entering for a minimum of 20 seconds. If hand washing is not available, use hand sanitizer. Facilities that have the capability should implement a shower in/shower out protocol. Employees should be advised to wash their hands frequently throughout the work day.
All incoming equipment and materials need to be disinfected. This would include personal items such as cellphones. Individuals touching the items during the disinfection process should wear gloves.
Practice social distancing of two metres whenever possible. Avoid shaking of hands and hugging of employees.
Increase ventilation in rooms where staff are frequently present such as lunch rooms or offices. Utilize air cleaning technology that have the ability to kill viruses in the air. Consider researching innovative new air purifying technologies that provide the benefits of ozone without the health risk normally associated with typical ozone generators
If possible, consider alternating work day or shift schedules for staff. This would allow the segregation of staff, in an attempt to limit transmission.
Stagger start times of staff arrival, limiting the possibility of congregation of staff and entry points. Staggering of break and lunch periods should also be implemented in an attempt to limit the number of staff being in close proximity.
Clean and disinfect all common touch areas and surfaces thoroughly and frequently. Ensure that cleaners and disinfectants being used are safe for human contact. Utilize cleaning and disinfecting equipment that increases the ease of application and improves effectiveness such as portable foamers or sprayers.
In the end, farmers and their employees are on the frontline of this pandemic. The industry needs to do what it can to protect the food supply chain. By implementing protocols such as listed above, producers are taking the necessary steps to put an end to COVID-19.
Mark Beaven is vice president at Ogena Solutions, a provider of biosecurity solutions and equipment.