PPE in short supply for farm work during the COVID-19 crisis
With increased demand for personal protective equipment, or PPE, to protect against COVID-19, these essential workers are facing shortages. Agricultural commissioners in 28 counties are hearing from farmers who are having trouble getting PPE for their employees and farmers in another 11 counties who are worried about running out of PPE in the next month or two according to a California Department of Pesticide Regulation survey.
Gloves, N95 respirators, coveralls and other gear that workers wear to protect themselves from COVID-19, pesticides, dust and other health hazards are in short supply as priority is given to health care workers during the pandemic.
To reduce the spread of COVID-19, workers may wear homemade face coverings, but for applying pesticides, they must wear respirators specified on the pesticide product label, said Whitney Brim-DeForest, UC Cooperative Extension rice advisor.
Pesticide applicators may use gear that is more protective than required by the product label and regulations.
“Although this could change in the days ahead, half-mask and full-mask respirators are more available than disposable N95 respirators for now,” said Lisa Blecker, coordinator for the UC Pesticide Safety Education Program.
Before the pandemic, 10% of N95 respirators from 3M went to health care, but that number is now 90%, the company said in a letter to distributors. This has led to significant backorders of PPE supplies for distributors.
Carl Atwell, president of Gempler's, an online distributor of worker supplies, said that before the crisis, normal lead times for PPE was up to 10 days. He estimated disposable respirators will become available in the fall and other PPE supplies in August.
In the meantime, there is alternative PPE that agricultural professionals can use during the shortage.
Atwell suggests looking for lesser known brands of PPE as opposed to the first tier of choice: “It's sort of like searching for Purell hand sanitizer. Purell brand might be out of stock, but can you find a different disinfectant?”
On Gempler's website, the more recognizable Tyvek coverall from Dupont is sold out, however disposable protective clothing is available from other brands. Reusable chemical-resistant clothing is also available as opposed to their disposable counterparts. Supplies in high demand are reusable and disposable nitrile gloves, protective clothing, disposable respirators and certain protective eyewear, such as goggles and face shields.
For workers who will be applying pesticides, Blecker and Brim-DeForest offered some guidelines on how to meet PPE requirements as the shortage continues.
General PPE requirements: “Remember, the label is the law,” said Brim-DeForest. “PPE requirements for agriculture are not being loosened.” The UCCE advisor recommends purchasing only what you need for the season and choosing reusable PPE whenever possible. Growers who have excess supplies of PPE can coordinate with their county agricultural commissioner or UCCE advisor to help other producers in their area.
“Disposable gloves less than 14 mil can be worn, but not for more than 15 minutes at a time,”Blecker said. “Farmers should also note that thinner gloves cannot be layered on top of one another.”
For more information about PPE, contact your county agricultural commissioner or see the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's posters at https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/whs/pdf/gloves_for_pesticide_handling.pdf and
UC IPM also covers these topics in their pesticide safety webinar series at http://ipm.ucanr.edu/IPMPROJECT/workshops.html.
There are many methods to tackle weeds. The UC Weed Research and Information Center has put together a variety of training videos about these pests including demonstrating weed control techniques as collectively listed by Gale Perez in her blog article More training videos: Weed Control Techniques.
Good luck - don't let them overstay their welcome!
Having received quite a bit of rain lately, your irrigation system is probably the last thing on your mind. In truth, now is actually the perfect time to check things out before you do turn your system back on for the upcoming warm months of summer.
Below is a seasonal checklist to make sure your system is in working order.
Feel free to print the attached and post near your controller for easy reference.
1. Take an inventory of what you have, is it in good shape? Be honest.
I am all for re-purposing and fixing whatever I can, but holding on to items like those old gloves that are literally falling apart is just not worth it. If you do need new ones, and can't get out to purchase a new pair and have a sewing machine, I found a crafty little site that shows you how to make new ones out of old sweatshirts https://latelyreconstructed.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/10-minute-sweatshirt-garden-gloves-tutorial/
2. If it is broken and fixable, try repairing it yourself.
It is very frustrating when you need to haul a load around the garden only to find the wheelbarrow has a flat tire. Pump up, or patch, deflated wheel barrow tires now before you get started on any big projects - there are many DIY online sources with easy to follow instructions, if that doesn't work, you can order a replacement online from most box stores.
Don't forget to inspect your wooden handled garden tools too. Are the handles of your rake, shovel, hoes, etc. beyond a light sanding and oiling? Maybe showing signs of splintering apart? Most are easily replaced and are available from your local hardware store or other online sources who also offer complete directions.
3. Dull blades can be dangerous to you and your plants.
Trying to dig with a dull shovel will only make the job harder and rough on your back, just as pruning plants with dull clippers will only cause harm to your plants creating cuts that shred the branches leaving them open to disease and other pests.
Click on the document below from the UCCE Master Gardeners, Orange County, for instructions on sharpening your single bevel tools.
4. Be sure to organize things so they are easily found.
5. Have FUN
That's all for now, just a few things to help pass the time and make your life a little easier later on.
Online training courses and webinars available from UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program
—Cheryl Reynolds, UC Statewide IPM Program
This spring if you are looking for options to obtain your continuing education units (CEUs) and not sure where to get them, why not check out the online options that the UC Statewide IPM Program (UC IPM) has to offer. For license and certificate holders from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) with last names beginning with the letters A through L, 2020 will be the year to renew.
UC IPM currently offers 16 online courses for DPR credit. Many of the courses are also accredited by the California Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB), Certified Crop Advisor (CCA), Western Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (WCISA), or Arizona Department of Agriculture.
If you are looking for CEUs in the Laws and Regulations category, check out these courses:
- Proper Pesticide Use to Avoid Illegal Residues (2.0 Pesticide Laws & Regs)
- Proper Selection, Use, and Removal of Personal Protective Equipment (1.5 Pesticide Laws & Regs)
- Providing IPM in Schools and Child Care Settings(1.0 Other and 0.5 Pesticide Laws & Regs)
Some of our courses do require a fee and are being offered at an early-bird price through October 31st. These courses can be purchased individually, or they can be purchased as a 4-course bundle for a special price of $85—a total discount of $20 versus purchasing each course separately.
In addition to offering online courses, UCIPM also hosts a monthly webinar series sponsored by the Citrus Research Board.
The UC Ag Experts webinar series is designed for growers and pest control advisers. It includes presentations on various pest management and horticultural topics, primarily for citrus and avocados. The next webinar will be held on April 8th from 3 PM until 4 PM with Dr. Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Riverside Department of Entomology and Extension Specialist, speaking about citricola scale. This webinar has been approved for one hour of Other CEUs from DPR and 1 hour of IPM units from CCA. Registration is currently open. View past webinars on the YouTube UC Ag Expert Talk Playlist. CEUs are only available for attending the live webinar.
DPR always encourages license and certificate holders to avoid the last-minute rush and renew early to ensure your license will be renewed by January 1st. Take advantage of UC IPM's online courses and webinar series to get a jump start on your renewal today!