Almond Worker Hygiene Guidelines
Worker hygiene plays a critical role in minimizing potential contamination for produce that is consumed fresh and that has multiple “touch points” with human hands during harvest and postharvest handling. Almonds do not fall in the category of high concern with regard to “touch point.” However, it is always important to build awareness of the role of personal hygiene and responsibility among management and all employees.
Proper field sanitation and hygiene should not be taken for granted; they start with the quality, adequacy of supplies, and placement of facilities. The enforceable requirements for this are mandated by federal and state regulations. Easy access to the specific requirements in California is available from the Almond Board of California.
Brief but frequent training and re-enforcement of training is required to maximize compliance. With regard to toilet facilities, the following key guidance applies to all situations and locations:
- Workers should have ready access to toilets and fully stocked hand washing stations at all times. Toilets must be placed within one-quarter of a mile from the fieldwork area. In California, an exemption to this rule is provided if workers are in the field for less than two hours.
- Placement of portable toilets should only be done in a manner that minimizes the chance that usage, cleaning, or relocation could result in contamination of irrigation water sources, equipment cleaning areas, areas of foot traffic, the orchard floor, and any other areas that may jeopardize the safety of the harvested almonds.
- Use special caution when servicing portable toilets to prevent leaking into the fields. In the case of leakage, you should have an established plan for waste contamination, which includes definition of the affected area and the segregation and disposal of all impacted almonds.
- For permanent or hard-plumbed facilities, be aware of any potential for cross connections to other water sources, such as foliar make-up water. Ensure that adequate back-flow protection is in place. Backflow has been the cause of on-farm contamination for pesticide- and pathogen-related illness in foods. Make sure applicators are trained in the proper placement and handling of hoses and equipment to prevent accidental contamination.
A bilingual food safety training manual with lesson plans and a video are available from the Almond Board of California at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a number of simple-to-use resources related to regulatory requirements and training tools to teach owners, supervisors and farm workers about the need and how to’s of personal hygiene and hand washing techniques. Straight forward fact sheets and checklists on all aspects of Farm Labor Safety, including portable toilets and hand washing, from CAL OSHA, together with farm labor extension training bulletins are available from the University of California, Davis.
Field Sanitation Guidelines
Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables