Our food supply is typically very stable. Rain or shine, field and packinghouse workers harvest and process food for the American people. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a level of uncertainty which leads people to wonder what will happen if outbreaks of illness at many locations prevent workers from harvesting. If not addressed, lack of labor could affect planting and harvesting of the fresh fruits and vegetables we need for good health. Keeping produce workers healthy, therefore, should be a top priority.
Produce company employees are not only vulnerable to contagious diseases while working in the field and on packing lines, they are also more likely to become ill when living in company-provided housing. In a Produce Marketing Association “Interview with the Experts” segment, Dr. Martial Ndeffo, infectious disease researcher, stated that the best way to prevent disease spread is to “try to keep it out of the community.” This can be extremely difficult when workers have a need to travel away from their working /living quarters. Doctor Ndeffo suggests employers determine the workers’ reasons for going out, and then come up with solutions to meet the needs. For example, if workers are leaving the facility seeking entertainment, employers can provide movies or other activities, which might encourage them to stay in. If employers are leaving because they want to visit family, perhaps Skype or Zoom accounts can be set up. Doctor Ndeffo also says employers should consider restructuring living quarters and work facilities to make them less susceptible to the spread of illness.
A comprehensive prevention program also includes employee screening. The Centers for Disease Control has published mitigation activities for workplaces, which outlines recommendations to help businesses manage the COVID-19 situation. The CDC offers specific advice based on the level of transmission in the community where a business is located. One instruction is to “consider daily in-person or virtual health checks (e.g. temperature and respiratory symptom screening) of staff and visitors entering buildings (if feasible).” By following this guidance, management can identify any employee who might be ill or have a fever (often the first sign of COVID19 infection), before they enter the work facility. Conducting screening at multiple facility entry points is also recommended.
Measuring employee temperature may seem like a daunting task, especially with large employee populations. However, a well-outlined, detailed process, along with the right tools, will help management to avoid problems in the long run. A non-contact thermometer is a safe and reliable product employers can use to help prevent the spread of disease. DeltaTrak’s Non-Contact Infrared Forehead Thermometer, Model 15007, has received FDA 510(k) clearance as a medical device. According to Frederick Wu, President and CEO, “Our focus is presenting meaningful solutions to current pandemic conditions. With so much emphasis on health and safety at this time, it is important that we provide a tool that can be used to quickly and accurately measure body temperature of large workgroups, such as field and packinghouse workers in produce companies.” Mr. Wu is certain the Non-Contact Infrared Forehead Thermometer will become an integral part of customers’ COVID-19 screening programs.