By Growcom CEO David Thomson
An initial assessment of the first positive case in Queensland of a farm worker with COVID-19 suggests that the processes put in place to manage risks have worked.
The business involved has developed and submitted their own health management plan to authorities, outlining the measures they’ve put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 coming onto farm, and manage risks to their business should a case be confirmed.
The business, as an employer of seasonal workers, also appears to have followed their obligations for conducting a daily check of worker’s symptoms. It is being reported the worker was referred for testing on the first day on farm with symptoms.
For now it appears only a few fellow employees were in close enough contact to be at risk of catching the disease, and none of these are yet to test positive, and so farm operations are able to continue.
For its success to date, this case should serve as a cautionary tale to the rest of horticulture.
Developing a health management plan was initially required only of those employers wanting to bring existing staff into Queensland from interstate.
From 5 May however all businesses are required to have a plan that employ seasonal workers, defined as anyone who travels within Queensland for work and does not return each day to their usual place of residence, including Queensland residents and Australian citizens.
Growers without a plan in place are encouraged to develop one now, not just to comply with the Queensland Government directive, but also as an important tool to ensure their business is prepared to prevent and then withstand a positive case.
Growers employing seasonal workers are also required to request records of their movement and employment for the two weeks before they start work, and then make daily checks of all workers to determine the presence or absence of COVID-19 symptoms.
All these processes are designed to keep our regional communities safe, workers healthy, and to ensure the horticulture, as an essential industry, is able to continue.
Growers in Queensland have a particular responsibility for feeding the rest of Australia through winter, with up to 90% of our vegetables nationally coming out of the Sunshine State during the season.
Ensuring our industry is able to keep operating is both a matter of food security and national security.
Growers can find more information on their obligations and requirements under Queensland Government COVID-19 directives here: https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/farms-fishing-forestry/agriculture/coronavirus-support/seasonal-workers-covid19/