Where do I wash my hands?

The workforce structure of each of the farms I’m visiting this summer varies. On several farms there are no employees; two co-owners do everything involved in the production and marketing of the products. On other farms there are up to 8 full and parttime employees involved in harvest and packing. Another site has an entirely different structure with 5 college interns and 2 employees making up the staff. Regardless of size, large or small, you need to provide all workers with the proper facilities for bathroom usage and handwashing. A major source of human pathogens are the worker’s hands (handwashing). It is important that managers encourage workers to use the proper facilities and training is completed on the topics of proper handwashing and bathroom usage (English and Spanish on YouTube). This is noteworthy since most of the picking done on small farms is by hand with hand held equipment and not by large harvesting machines. Proper handwashing consists of (document 1):

  • Remove rings/watches/bracelets.
  • Use running water.
  • Use soap.
  • Lather hands, wrists, fingers.
  • Don’t forget to scrub your thumbs, under your nails and in between your fingers.
  • Wash your hands for 10-15 seconds.
  • Fully dry your hands with disposable paper towels.

A majority of the farms in our study have house bathrooms but some have a bathroom in the barn or trailer, portable sanitary facilities or a composting bathroom and foot-operated handwashing station. The field sanitation laws prescribed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1928.110, subpart I, indicate one toilet facility and one handwashing facility for 20 workers and the maximum worker-to-restroom distance is to be within a one quarter mile walk of each hand laborer’s place of work. This Is not only required by law but essential for growers to provide the necessary equipment and supporting policies to limit possible contamination sources. These regulations are important not only for worker conditions but also have an impact on public health. If proper facilties are not available there is a higher risk of contamination from worker’s hands.

As this relates to the GAP certification process, under the Worker Health and Hygiene section,
G-7 Employees are washing their hands before beginning or returning to work.
G-9 All toilet/restroom/field sanitation facilities are clean. They are properly supplied with single use towels, toilet paper, and hand soap or antibacterial soap and potable water for hand washing.
Total of 15 points each.
G-10 All toilet/restroom/field sanitation facilities are serviced and cleaned on a scheduled basis.
Total of 10 points and a record is required to be kept showing an action was taken.

Limiting contamination events through implementation of risk reduction practices is the goal of this project; one of the major sources of contamination is the worker’s hands. Farmers will alleviate this source of contamination by providing and encouraging workers to properly use the available facilities, keeping them stocked and disposing of the waste appropriately.

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