O’Rourke suggests employers develop a five-step workforce contingency plan to prevent any interruption in a farm or agribusiness operation.
The first step in developing such a plan during the pandemic is managers and business owners emphasize their employees continue to social distance, wash hands frequently, provide personal protective gear, and provide for testing. She states that employers need to emphasize these measures in their business operations, and remind workers these are also good practices in their personal lives. Employees need to be encouraged to get tested should symptoms of the virus surface, and should be quarantined if they have been exposed to the virus.
Step two is cross training of workers.
“Cross training and job rotation is always good. This training helps workers see how the whole operation works, and enables workers to step into others’ positions should the need arise,” said O’Rourke, who says training standby workers may be costly, but it could be advantageous should a crisis arise.
Along with the training, a written Standard Operating Procedure Manual should be available so fill-in laborers have information on how to perform a procedure that they may not be familiar with. These procedures should be written in a step-by-step description of how to perform each task. O’Rourke suggests with current technology, videos can be made in advance so standby laborers can both read and see how to perform a task.