Managing your Ag business through COVID-19

Last updated: 24/04/2020

As COVID-19 spreads throughout WA many of us are moving to put plans in place to ensure that our farming operations, businesses, staff, family and friends are as protected possible. Whether your business is farming or servicing farms, take time now to make plans on how you will operate during the pandemic.

ASHEEP is working to source, develop and share agriculture-specific resources to assist. 

Here are some important things to consider right now, with further information below:

During this challenging time we are fortunate to be part of a community where people help each other out. If there is something ASHEEP can do, please let us know.

 
Have a meeting now, plan and take action

Be proactive and get this done. Bring the members of your team together to think, talk and make plans to manage the potential impacts on your business and your ability to operate. The following points are intended as a guide to start the planning process for a farm or a business that services a farm. It is not an exhaustive list. Use these points as discussion topics, agree with your team on actions, put the actions in place. 

Protecting staff from exposure 
  • Employers and employees all have a legal responsibility to help provide a safe workplace.

  • Are there members of your team who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and what can you do to reduce the risk to them? Do members of your team have family members that are vulnerable?

  • Are all members of your team taking COVID-19 seriously and taking reasonable actions now? 

Managing visitors, trips to the 'outside world' and close contacts
  • Consider how you manage people coming from overseas or from areas that put them at higher risk of transmission. This could include Perth, another town, or your local centre.

  • If team members generally pick parts or supplies up, how can those trips be managed? Could you get things dropped off or left outside instead to reduce the exposure risk? 

  • Would it be useful to restrict visitor access to your farm/business or put signage and processes in place to advise visitors of your protocols on arrival?

  • How do team members and their close contacts plan to manage their personal lives, trips to grocery stores, catching up with friends? Each workplace is a community that will need to work together to look after each other. Different people will have different ideas about managing risk and the level of risk involved. Try not to butt heads - make sure everyone has access to up-to-date information on COVID-19 and a good understanding of how it may impact the business and the people in each team member's network.

Goods & services your business needs
  • What goods (e.g. chemicals, fertilisers, equipment) do you rely on to keep your business going in the coming months? Consider contacting suppliers to discuss if there will be any impact on availability or to let them know what you will need.

  • What services (e.g. mechanics, shearers, fuel deliveries, agents, advisors) do you require over the coming months? Can you arrange systems so that they can service you without coming on farm / on premises? If they need to come on farm / premises are they aware of the processes you have in place to reduce the risk to your team? Do you know their expectations around protecting their staff? Is there an alternate service provider available in the case that the one you normally use can no longer deliver the service?

  • Contact your major suppliers / services providers now to find out how they are preparing and talk to them about your requirements.

  • If you are a farm service provider, consider contacting your clients now to ask if they have new protocols in place for property access and to let them know about how your business is responding to deliver continuity of service and minimise risk of spread.

Changing how you use shared spaces & surfaces
  • Do you have shared vehicles, work spaces, hand-washing facilities, bathrooms or kitchen facilities and are they set up to reduce risk of transmission?

  • Are there processes in place to clean down shared surfaces regularly or to reduce the need to share them? For example, think about things multiple people touch like door handles, taps, food surfaces, steering wheels, operating screens, switches, the inside of vehicles, the seeder bar, the fuel bowser.

  • Could you stop team members sharing vehicles and machinery, or could you clean the cabs, hand rails and door handles down between operators?

  • Can your team members adequately clean their hands before they eat or after they have touched shared surfaces?

  • How are shared / staff meals being prepared and are there adequate hygiene practices in place?

  • Consider ensuring that soap and hand sanitiser are readily available and whether you need protocols in place to ensure they are used regularly and correctly. If you can't get hand sanitiser at the shop, are there other ways you could source or safely make it?

  • Could you replace shared hand-towels with disposable paper towels?

  • Are all members of the team and their close contacts practicing social distancing?

  • If you have shared accomodation has it been set up to reduce risk of transmission?

  • What measures could you put in place to protect other staff in shared accomodation if one of them developed symptoms or tested positive?

Responding to members of the team being out of action
  • How would the business be impacted by limited labour due to staff having to self-isolate or the closure of schools or childcare? What can you do to prepare?

  • How could you respond if one of your team members or someone they have regular contact with was required to isolate or tested positive?

  • How could you respond if a team member displayed symptoms?

  • What policies are in place for sick or 'isolation' leave? If there are none in place or you work with casuals, will they feel financial pressure to keep working if they feel unwell? Would putting a plan in place reduce this risk?

Responding as the situation changes and keeping the team informed 
  • Are you regularly accessing accurate and useful information in order to update your team and your business continuity plan?

  • Is the information you are accessing from a reliable source? 

  • If you need to make changes to your business's response to COVID-19, how will you communicate it with your team to make sure everyone is on the same page?

Make plans for your stock in case you get sick or hospitalised

If you become unwell or hospitalised over the coming months, do you have plans to manage your sheep, cattle and other animals? 

  • Is there another member of your team who can keep feed and water up to animals in your absence?

  • Do other members of your team or family know how to operate the feed trailers, augers, water pumps etc. that keep your stock alive? 

  • Are there critical tasks coming up and do other team or family members have the information and skills to deliver these tasks without you?

  • Could a neighbour help you as a back-up? If so, have a chat to them now, make a map so they know where your animals are, write down some basics on the information they need to keep your stock alive.

Supporting each other
  • How could you support a team member if they / their family are required to isolate or tested positive?

  • Are there members of your team who are not coping well due to stress or anxiety?

  • How can you keep a sense of team and social contact while social distancing measures in place?

  • How could you support a farm neighbour or a similar service provider if their business is impacted and they are struggling to deliver their farming program or business services?

 
Where to find information on COVID-19

​Official Information:

- Employee is sick with the COVID-19 coronavirus

- A member of the employee’s family or household is sick with the COVID-19 coronavirus

- Employees unable to work due to self isolation of themselves or a family member 

- Employees who are caring for children who are impacted by school or childcare closures 

- Employees required by an employer to remain away from workplace as precaution

- Employees who wish to stay home as a precaution

  • Posters for your workplace:

- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Know the signs (2 March 2020)

- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Stop the spread (2 March 2020)

Industry Information:*

*ASHEEP does not endorse or ensure the accuracy of these industry resources. Viewers should make their own assessment.

ASHEEP Esperance

PO Box 2445

Esperance WA 6450

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Disclaimer: The Association of Sheep Husbandry, Excellence, Evaluation and Production (ASHEEP) does not accept any liability whatsoever by reason of negligence or otherwise arising from use or release of this information or any part of it.