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Take care of physical and mental health
Posted On: November 03, 2020

By Maria Woldt for WCO

As much as we want our work to be “business as usual” these days, it’s not. Farmers and custom farmers are essential workers, which means that that for most of us, the workload hasn’t diminished during quarantine. In some cases, it may have increased as you implemented additional safety measures.

Like virtually everyone, I’ve had neighbors, friends, service providers and extended family contract the virus. If you haven’t already, it’s time to take additional care – for you and the safety of your employees.

Some easy things to consider:

Sanitize: At the end of the day, wipe down your shop tables, door handles, refrigerator handles, time clocks and other equipment. If you have been working with tools, wipe them off with sanitizing wipes. If you cannot assign equipment to one person, make sure it is wiped clean in between operators. Encourage one operator at a time. 

Minimize interaction: For your safety and theirs, keep client interaction to calls, texts or distanced/outdoor. If you must be in close proximity, wear a mask. Our own custom operator recently delivered some equipment and then called my husband on the phone to talk about the details. Ordinarily he would have stopped for a few minutes, but we are all keeping interaction to a bare minimum. For employees, if you must have a group meeting, make sure everyone is at last six feet apart and ideally outside. If you need to meet in the shop, encourage everyone to wear a mask.

Monitor employee’s health: Place hand sanitizer in high traffic areas and equipment cabs. Provide your staff with masks and encourage frequent hand washing. Make it clear to employees that if they are sick, even common cold symptoms, they should stay home until they feel better. It might be a good time to revisit your sick leave policy. Communicate any changes (even temporary changes) to your employees. If employees understand your policy, they are more likely to be honest and stay home when they are ill.

Take extra care of mental health: An ongoing study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that more than 50% of adults reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. People are also reporting lack of sleep, poor diet and increased alcohol consumption. While it may have been ok at first, especially for introverts, ongoing social isolation has negative impacts on mental health.

Before the pandemic, farmer suicide had been on the rise. White, middle-aged males are at highest risk for suicide according to the Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Combine that with the reality that rural areas have less access to mental health resources, overall health factors are lower and rural populations make less money. A Johns Hopkins study found that more people own guns in rural areas. Access to firearms means that a suicide attempt is more likely to be fatal. Most gun owners are male.

Coronavirus will negatively impact these already troubling realities. We have invited Jeff Ditzenberger back to offer an official QPR training as part of the WCO Safety Certification program this coming March. QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer — three simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide. Jeff’s message was well-received this past February.

In closing, we hope you continue to stay healthy and take additional care of your personal mental health as well as pay special attention to those around you. We will get through this together!


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