Farmworker harvesting strawberries wears a cloth face covering
Photo credit: Hector Amezcua, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the Time of COVID-19

En español

The increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in widespread shortages of PPE commonly used in agriculture, such as respirators and gloves.

In response, the CDC, NIOSH Agricultural Centers, and state agencies have developed guidance to assist employers and workers in conserving existing supplies and identifying alternate protection when necessary.

Workers should always be provided the appropriate PPE required by the specific job task. 

What's the difference between respirators, disposable respirators, and cloth face coverings?

Check out this FDA and CDC fact sheet (English/Spanish).

Illustrations of respirators, medical masks, and cloth face coverings

Alternatives for Respirators and Gloves

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has provided the following alternatives for N95 respirators and alternate exposure controls (English/Spanish) and recommendations for chemical-resistant and reusable gloves for handling pesticides (English/Spanish). The AgriSafe respirator selection guide provides task-specific respirator recommendations (English). Remember to only use NIOSH-approved respirators. 

Respirator Reuse and Disinfection

Reusable respirators (e.g. half-face respirators, full-face respirators) should only be shared if they are cleaned and sanitized properly. Two-strap disposable respirators (e.g. N95s) should never be shared. Due to supply shortages, disposable respirators may be reused by the same person in some situations

Cloth Face Coverings

For general work duties, the CDC advises the use of simple cloth face coverings. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for maintaining physical distance or proper handwashing technique. They are not intended to protect the wearer, however they may prevent the spread of COVID-19 from the wearer to others. Cloth face coverings should not be shared among workers.

Best Practices for Removing PPE

  • Do not touch your face
  • Do not touch the contaminated outer surface of PPE
  • Limit surfaces touched
  • Wash your hands immediately

PPE Training

The CDC recommends that employers provide PPE training for their workers in a language and manner they understand to ensure proper use. Maintain physical distance during all trainings.

Training topics should include:

  • When to use PPE in your worksite and what PPE is appropriate
  • How to properly don (put on) and doff (remove) PPE
  • How to dispose of PPE, or if reusable, how to clean and disinfect it
  • The importance of washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after removing PPE

For the complete list of CDC Recommendations for Agricultural Workplaces, click here.

This article is based on the Worker Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program (WOSHTEP) administered by the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation in the California Department of Industrial Relations through interagency agreements with the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California, Berkeley; the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety at the University of California, Davis; and the Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program at the University of California, Los Angeles.