Handwashing stations are a cost-effective way to gift a farmer in your life with a great and practical tool to encourage hygiene practices. Handwashing is the frontline of defense that farm workers have in their toolbelt to protect fruits and vegetables from becoming contaminated from bacteria and pathogens. So, appropriate handwashing stations are important to make sure proper handwashing is being done as often as needed.
Following the Produce Safety Rule 112.32 B (3) handwashing MUST occur:
1. before starting work
2. before putting on gloves
3. after using the toilet
4. Upon return to the workstation after any break or other absence from the workstation
5. As soon as practical after touching animals (including livestock and working animals), or any waste of animal origin; and
6. At any other time when the hands may have become contaminated in a manner that is reasonably likely to lead to contamination of covered produce with known or reasonably foreseeable hazards
By receiving handwashing stations, growers are gaining another tool to implement food safety on the farm to help ensure that handwashing is happening during all of the cases listed above. It is important for hand washing to be accessible to farm workers so that they are doing it and not skipping out. If the only sink is in the break room, at the packinghouse, or a far walk away, workers are going to be less motivated to wash their hands as often as they should be.
Do-it-yourself (DIY) handwashing stations are great to have on the farm and are not hard or too expensive to put together. The University of Minnesota Extension has a great guide that can be found here on how to build a low-cost handwash station.
All you need is:
• An enclosed container with a spigot that can be cleaned (5-10 gallons is standard)
• Catch container for the used handwash water
• Hand soap of your choosing
• Single-use paper towels or reusable towels that are kept clean
• Covered trash can
Because these DIY stations are portable, they encourage proper handwashing to occur on the farm. I have seen some growers go mobile and mount their stations onto trucks, or horse wagons in the Amish community, to ensure handwashing can always occur no matter where workers are at in the field. So do the farmer in your life a favor and help them enhance their on-farm food safety culture with the gift of a handwash station.
Article by Allisa Conley, Produce Safety Technician