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COVID-19 and farmer liability concerns

The following information is provided by Nationwide®, the #1 farm and ranch insurer in the U.S.*

The COVID-19 pandemic poses major agricultural workforce management challenges. Overcoming them takes the right mix of administrative and engineering controls.

Shoring up liability vulnerabilities

As an employer, it’s important to prevent extended disruptions and shore up your liability vulnerabilities as employees resume their work on your agricultural operation.

There’s no precedent for the disruption COVID-19 has caused in the last century. Federal- and state-level health and safety guidelines are always evolving based on case numbers and researchers’ progress in learning about the virus. Staying ahead of any potential litigious action as an employer and ensuring a safe workplace requires adapting to guidelines and communication. 

Awareness of evolving science-based regulations and federal employment recommendations should be applied to three basic areas of emphasis to help protect your workforce and shore up any legal liability:

  1. Keep COVID-19 out of your business. Provide screening and at-home monitoring capabilities to ensure no one with COVID-19 symptoms is permitted entry to your facilities. Check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the latest screening and testing protocols to ensure you’re offering the most up-to-date screening.
  2. Stop the virus from spreading. Follow the latest federal guidelines for social distancing, sanitizing and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers. Communicate any changes in engineering or administrative controls you’re making to follow federal regulations.
  3. Be prepared. Create concrete plans to help the entire workforce feel prepared and confident. Communicate those plans often to demonstrate you’re making every effort to support the health and well-being of your workforce.

What’s next?

How the pandemic unfolds will dictate any future required action to continue to maintain worker health and safety, and prevent potential legal liability in the process. Here are a few best practices that can help you ensure you’re doing what you can to help mitigate risk:

  • Follow the leaders. Continue to follow official guidance from local, state and federal health and workplace safety agencies like the CDC, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state and federal health and medical officials.
  • ABC: Always be communicating. Your plan for how to keep your workers safe on the job is probably changing often. Make sure you’re communicating those changes to your workforce and customers.
  • Stick to your guns. Once you have a risk mitigation plan in place based on official guidance, stick to that plan and be attentive to any changes in guidance from official sources like the CDC.

Litigious action is a real possibility with the spread of COVID-19 infections among agricultural workers. Develop sound policies to help minimize your liability exposure and preserve your workers’ health and safety. Stay informed, be ready to adapt and communicate your efforts to workers and customers to continue operations with minimal disruption.

Additional COVID-19 resource

In the midst of a pandemic, stay safe and prepared. Nationwide’s COVID-19 resources can help you make the right decisions for your farm and employees moving forward. To learn more, visit www.nationwide.com/lc/resources/farm-and-agribusiness

*A.M. Best Market Share Report 2019. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle, and Nationwide is on your side are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2021 Nationwide.

At Southern States®, we are proud to be a farmer-owned cooperative. Southern States has partnered with Nationwide® to offer Southern States Cooperative member-producers in North Carolina and Virginia special discounts on farm insurance. In addition to giving you exclusive insurance savings, we're also joining forces to support the cooperative that means so much to you.

Nationwide® Agribusiness is the number 1 insurer of farms in the U.S. and a leading insurer of commercial agribusiness. Go to nationwide.com/southernstates to find a local agent.


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