Every summer, thousands of Nebraskans detassel seed corn, performing an essential cross-pollinating task for seed companies. To help detasselers stay healthy during the coronavirus pandemic, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture has issued guidance for this summer’s season of detasseling.
“Throughout this pandemic we have taken extra steps to ensure the health and safety of workers in the agricultural industry including detasselers and the important work they do,” ag department director Steve Wellman said in a news release. “Detasselers already use personal protective equipment in their line of work. This new guidance recommends additional PPE along with plans for social distancing.”
Detasseling activities are expected to follow the governor’s Directed Health Measures.
General Screening and Sanitation
1. Maintain 6 feet physical distancing, as much as possible, in all circumstances.
2. Wear masks when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
3. Utilize protocols of screening questionnaires for health symptoms or temperature checks (per CDC and OSHA must be under 100.4).
4. Easy access to multiple hand wash and sanitization stations.
5. Frequent disinfecting of restrooms, buses, eating and other common areas.
6. Educate and train workers about how they can reduce the spread of COVID-19.
1. Assigned seating. Family members may sit together.
2. Fill bus from back to front.
In Field Operations
1. Masks are not required unless 6 feet spacing is not possible. Please work with individuals experiencing issues with a particular type of mask to find a solution that is comfortable and still protects their health.
Meals & Breaks
1. Each person brings their own meals and water.
2. If there are common areas for additional water or drinks, use only disposable cups. Consider designating one person, with proper PPE, to refill water jugs.
3. Plenty of receptacles for trash to keep the fields clean.
4. Individual hand sanitizers for workers to use when away from common stations.
What to do if someone is sick
1. Individuals who appear to have symptoms upon arrival or who become sick during the day should be immediately separated and sent home.
2. If an individual is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform anyone they have come into contact with including fellow workers.
3. Employers should work with state, local, tribal and/or territorial health officials to identify potential exposed employees.
4. Employees exposed to COVID-19, but without symptoms, may continue to work. Additional monitoring and screening by supervisors should occur throughout the work day
The state will update guidance on detasseling if statewide restrictions change. Check the ag department website at COVID-19 website at nda.nebraska.gov/COVID-19.