Skip Navigation LinksFarmworker-Safety

State of Cal Logo

State of California—Health and Human Services Agency
California Department of Public Health

April 18, 2020


How Farmworkers can Stay Safe from Coronavirus (COVID-19) 4.18.20

Your employer must take feasible actions to protect you from harm while at work. Often employers can make work changes to assist in protecting you from contagious diseases like COVID-19, while at work. Learn what actions you and your employer can take to help you stay healthy.  

What is COVID-19?

  • It is an illness that can affect your lungs and airways.
  • Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People usually have symptoms 2 to 14 days after being infected.
  • Most people can recover at home on their own from COVID-19. Some do get very sick and a limited number die from it. Older people, or those with medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes, are more likely to have serious illness.

How is COVID-19 spread?

  • When a person with COVID-19 speaks, coughs or sneezes, people nearby can breathe in their germs. 
  • It can spread when people touch surfaces or objects (like a steering wheel or a tool) after an infected person touches, coughs or sneezes on it and then touches their own nose, mouth or eyes.
  • People can have the virus and not have symptoms. To be safe, you should take precautions when around other people.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Do not come to work if you:

  • Have a fever (chills, body aches or measured temperature at or above 100.4°F/38°C), persistent dry cough or difficulty breathing.
  • Live with or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Staying home keeps others from getting sick.
  • Keep track of your symptoms. If you have trouble breathing, seek medical care right away.  Make sure to call before you go see your doctor. Describe your symptoms over the phone.
  • If you have a medical emergency, call 911 and tell them about your symptoms.

How To Stay Healthy at Work

Helping to keep safe, healthy food flowing to people is critical work and should continue even when stay-at-home orders are in place.  This essential work must be done as safely as possible.

Keeping a physical distance between workers is the best way to protect everyone. This includes in the fields, processing plants and packing sheds. It is also important when traveling to and from work. 

What is Physical Distancing?

Safe physical distancing means staying at least six feet (two meters) from others. Physical distancing can help stop illnesses from spreading. What you can do:

  • Stay at least six feet from other people.
  • When not at work, stay at home except for essential tasks like grocery shopping. Also, avoid large gatherings and practice physical distancing. 

Washing or sanitizing your hands often is another way to protect yourself and others. Use soap and water and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. When to wash your hands:

  • When you arrive at work and before you leave work.
  • Before and after breaks and eating.
  • Before and after using the toilet.
  • After close contact with others.
  • After touching shared surfaces or tools.
  • Before and after wearing masks or gloves.
  • After blowing your nose or sneezing.

Hand sanitizer is another way to kill the germs when you are not able to wash your hands.

Other things you can do:

  • Avoid close contact with others as much as possible. Stay at least six feet from others.
  • Wear a respirator or a mask if your employer gives you one.
  • Wear a cloth face covering such as a bandana or scarf if you are not wearing a respirator or a mask. If everyone wears a cloth face covering, then everyone is safer. This is especially important when you are in a car, van or bus.
  • Do not touch face coverings while they are on your face.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or a sleeve instead of your hand.
  • Avoid touching your face – especially your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Follow public health guidelines on health and hygiene as they evolve.

What your Employer Should do to Prevent COVID-19

Every worker has the right to a safe and healthy job. You have this right no matter what your immigration status is. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also called Cal/OSHA, is the agency that enforces this law. Cal/OSHA wants your employer to:

  • Train you on how to protect yourself from coronavirus. This is required.
  • Arrange the work to allow for safe distance between workers and train you on how to do this.
  • Send home any worker with COVID-19 symptoms. They may also suggest contacting a doctor.
  • Tell local health officials if someone at work has COVID-19.
  • Let sick workers stay home and not punish them for missing work. Cal/OSHA wants employers to consider giving sick leave benefits. A new U.S. law requires some employers to provide paid sick leave or family medical leave if needed because of COVID-19.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched areas often. This includes water containers, steering wheels, and shared tools. It also includes workstations and restrooms. Door handles and seat belts are also important.

What your employer can do to support physical distancing:

  • Stagger or add more work shifts.
  • Stagger worker breaks and lunch times.
  • Separate workers in the field as much as possible.
  • Have extra seating and shade areas to maintain physical distancing.
  • Have crew members who live or travel together also work together.

What your employer can do to support good hygiene practices:

Your employer must always make sure you have bathrooms and handwashing stations.

  • Restrooms must be clean and sanitary.
  • You must be able to wash your hands near the restroom.
  • Soap and paper towels must be provided.
  • There should be extra supplies of soap, paper towels, and toilet paper. They should be close to work areas and be replaced before they run out. Employers must give you enough time to wash your hands.

How To Stay Healthy at Home

Physically distancing yourself from others you live with protects everyone. This may be difficult where farmworkers live together in group settings. But it is the best way to keep everyone safe. It is also very important if one of you becomes sick. Ways to protect everyone at home: 

  • Avoid sharing personal items (such as food, dishes, cups, gloves, engaging in activities such as playing cards, etc.)
  • Cook and eat separately, and do not share food.
  • Move beds at least six feet away from each other if possible.
  • Wear cloth face coverings, especially if it is hard to maintain six feet of space between people.
  • If someone is sick, separate or isolate them. Give them a separate space while they are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect in eating, cooking and bathroom areas, doorknobs and other things people touch often. Make sure you:
  • Use cleaners and disinfectants safely by following label directions. This includes not mixing different cleaning products.
  • Wear gloves and any other recommended protection.
  • Clean and wipe surfaces like countertops and tables after each use.

If your employer houses you, they should do things to make physical distancing possible. They can take steps to keep workers with COVID-19 apart from healthy workers. It is important to report symptoms to people in charge of housing.

COVID-19 Information and Resources


General Information

Agricultural Employers and Growers

Other Workplace Information