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

March 18, 2021


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

Note: This Guidance is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only.

Related Materials: More Employees & Workplaces Guidance | All Guidance | More Languages

Your employer must take actions to protect you from workplace hazards, including making changes in the workplace to prevent the spread of contagious diseases like COVID-19.  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, airways, and entire body.
  • Symptoms include fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • People usually have symptoms 2 to 14 days after being infected.
  • Some people who get COVID-19 do not have any symptoms, but they can still spread it to other people.
  • Most people can recover at home on their own from COVID-19. However, some get very sick and require hospital care and treatment. Some people die from COVID-19 or related complications. Older people and people with medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart or lung disease, are more likely to have serious illness. According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths are in people over the age of 65. Workers of any age can spread COVID-19 to their families.

How is COVID-19 Spread?

  • When a person with COVID-19 speaks or vocalizes, coughs, or sneezes, they release tiny droplets and aerosols that contain the virus that causes COVID-19. People who are nearby or in the same indoor space can breathe in the virus and become sick with COVID-19.  Transmission is more likely indoors in poorly ventilated facilities than outdoors.
  • Droplets that contain virus can also land on surfaces or objects, like a steering wheel or tool. A person could become sick with COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their nose, mouth or eyes.
  • People can have the virus and not have any 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:

  • Do not feel well, have a fever of 100.4°F/38°C or higher, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, feel very tired, body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose or congestion, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Live with or have had close contact (within 6 feet / 2 meters for a total of 15 minutes or more) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

If you have come in close contact with a person with COVID-19, you should:

  • stay home to keep others from getting sick,
  • get COVID-19 testing as soon as possible, and
  • 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. You should get emergency care right away if you have trouble breathing, pain or pressure in your chest, confusion, blue lips or face, or cannot wake up or stay awake.

How to Stay Healthy at Work (Face Coverings and Physical Distancing):

Providing safe and healthy food to people is critical work and should continue even when stay-at-home orders are in place. To perform this essential work as safely as possible, you must:

  • Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth. This is especially important when you are inside a building or in a car, van, or bus with other people. Always wear a face covering when indoors. If you are outdoors and cannot stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from other people, you should also wear a face covering. If you cannot wear a face covering because of a medical or mental health condition or disability, then wear a face shield with a drape on the bottom if possible.  Do not touch face coverings while they are on your face. For more information on types of masks, fit, and filtration, see the CDPH Guidance on Face Masks Tips and Resources.
  • Keep a physical distance between workers of at least 6 feet (2 meters). This includes keeping a distance of at least 6 feet in fields, processing plants, and packing sheds. It also is important to ensure a minimum distance of at least 3 feet in vehicles when traveling to and from work. The more you increase the distance between persons beyond 6 feet, the safer you will be.

What is Physical Distancing?

Safe physical distancing means staying at least 6 feet (two meters) from others. Physical distancing can help stop illnesses from spreading. What you can do:

  • Stay at least 6 feet from other people. Six feet will not prevent all infections, so the greater the distance between persons the better.
  • Avoid gathering with people outside of your household and practice physical distancing. 

Hand Hygiene Recommendations:

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 face coverings 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. Rub hand sanitizer on your hands for 20 seconds and until they are dry. Hand sanitizer does not work if your hands are soiled. Do not use hand sanitizers that contain methyl alcohol.

Follow public health guidelines on health and hygiene as they evolve.

Other Things You Can Do:

  • Get an authorized COVID-19 vaccination. See CDPH Guidance on Vaccines.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or a sleeve instead of your hand.
  • Avoid touching your face – especially your eyes, nose and mouth.

What is Your Employer Required to Do?

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

  • Train workers on how to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Arrange for safe physical distancing between workers (at least 6 feet) and train them on how to do this.
  • Install barriers at fixed workstations when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Provide workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) and train them on how to use it.
  • Send home workers with COVID-19 and workers exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.
  • Tell local health officials if three or more people at work have COVID-19 in a 14-day period.
  • Notify workers, independent contractors or other employers at the site with exposure to COVID-19 within one business day.
  • Offer COVID-19 testing at no cost to workers on paid time if they are exposed to COVID-19 at work.
  • Require workers who test positive for COVID-19 or have experienced a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace to stay home, and not retaliate against them.
  • Continue to pay and maintain all benefits for workers required to stay home if (1) the worker was exposed to COVID-19 at work, or (2) tests positive for COVID-19, is not receiving disability benefits, and is otherwise able and available to work. Employers may use employer-provided employee sick leave benefits for this purpose and may offset payments by the amount an employee receives in other benefit payments.
  • Provide face coverings to all workers, and make sure they are worn by everyone in the workplace indoors, or when outdoors and people are less than 6 feet away from each other.
  • 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. Provide adequate number of handwashing facilities and hand sanitizers.

What Can Your Employer 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.
  • Staff work crews with members who live or travel together.

What Can Your Employer 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, particularly when living in shared housing. Ways to protect everyone at home: 

  • Avoid sharing personal items (such as food, dishes, cups, gloves, phones, engaging in activities such as playing cards, etc.)
  • Cook and eat separately, and do not share food.
  • Move beds at least 6 feet away from each other.
  • Wear face coverings.
  • If someone is sick, separate or isolate them from other occupants. Give them a separate space while they are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect kitchen, bathroom and common areas, including doorknobs and other objects 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 with Other Workers, They Must:

  • Do things to make physical distancing possible, such as keeping the beds at least 6 feet apart.
  • Make sure that the quantity of fresh air coming into the housing unit is maximized.
  • Provide face coverings and information on when they should be worn. 
  • Clean and disinfect inside areas at least once a day.
  • Try to keep workers in groups so the same workers who live together also work together.
  • Tell workers to report symptoms to employer.
  • Arrange for workers who have symptoms or have been near someone with COVID-19 to get tested for COVID-19.
  • Keep workers with COVID-19 apart from healthy workers by providing a separate sleeping area and bathroom. Separate cooking and eating facilities are not required if the workers with COVID-19 are not sharing cooking and eating facilities with others who are not positive.  

If Your Employer Provides Your Transportation to Work, They Must:

  • Try to transport employees who share the same household, work crew or worksite in the same vehicle.
  • Make sure everyone wears face coverings and maintains a distance of at least 3 feet (1 meter) from other persons in the vehicle.
  • Provide hand sanitizer and make sure everyone uses it before entering or exiting the vehicle.
  • Check for symptoms and not allow workers and drivers with symptoms to ride.
  • Keep windows open and ventilation on unless it is very hot, or very cold, or protection is needed from rain, snow, or smoky conditions. Ventilation should be set to maximize outdoor air and not set to recirculated air.
  • Clean and disinfect the vehicle regularly. High contact surfaces used by passengers must be cleaned and disinfected before each trip and high contact surfaces used by drivers must be cleaned and disinfected between different drivers.

COVID-19 Information and Resources


General Information

Agricultural Employers and Growers

Other Workplace Information


Originally Published on April 18, 2020