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News & Press: ONLA Updates

COVID-19: Essential Businesses Guidelines

Tuesday, March 24, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Alana Settle
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The State of Ohio Stay at Home Order that took effect Monday at 11:59 pm provides guidelines for what “essential businesses” may remain open.  The guidelines are based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommendations that were established after 9/11.They do not speak to every segment of our industry, leaving some discretion about what exactly is included as “essential business”.  At this time, we have not received any definitive guidance from the Governor’s Office, Ohio Department of Agriculture, or Ohio Department of Health.

Below we have listed out some references for your review. In all cases where business operations are enabled, the ultimate decision and responsibility rests with the business owner, and should be made in the context of strict adherence to health and safety guidance to protect workers and customers. Should you choose to continue to operate, we suggest that you relax attendance policies to allow any employee who is uncomfortable working to stay home and use PTO or apply for unemployment.

Nurseries & Greenhouses

Production agriculture is specifically listed as critical/essential, and nursery and greenhouse production is federally classified as agriculture, indicating growers should be able to remain operational at this time.We don’t believe there is an effort to parse out different types of agricultural operations in this order. Minimum basic operations are also allowed to include activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory and preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant material which would require growers to keep staff on site to maintain the plants that need care to maintain their value.For all employees, please provide sufficient hand washing stations and provide clear guidelines for social distancing while in the work environment. (Guidelines are preferred to Policies to allow the worker to exercise their discretion in maintaining a safe and healthy work space.)

Landscape, Lawn care, & Landscape Irrigation

This is an area requiring careful discretion.

Construction and public works projects may be considered isolated from the pubic and relatively safe.Please use caution and discretion when considering residential projects and maintenance.Critical Trade and other service providers who are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences are mentioned in the orders.Some landscape projects and services may fit under this category.Please be certain that any landscape projects will provide for good social distancing to significantly reduce risk of transmission, and it is important to ensure the ability to wash or sanitize hands and take other precautions.

If you choose to continue to provide landscape services, please follow these BMP’s (Best Management Practices) along with any other procedures you have put in place:

  • Contact and get permission from clients to be serviced- preferably in a documented format such as email or other time/date stamped electronic communication
  • Implement daily all-hands communications within company to inform, educate and reinforce SOPs, BMPs and possible next steps
  • Relax attendance policies to allow any employee who is uncomfortable working to stay home and use PTO
  • Train crew personnel to be able to respond to questions from the public in a professional manner
  • Enforce cleaning and sanitation protocols for all common spaces including trucks, equipment, and the breakroom, locker room and restroom
  • Stagger crew start times to minimize congregation at office/shop
  • Limit crews to one person per truck and have all other crew personnel drive directly to jobsite
  • Reduce crew size to compartmentalize the workforce into smaller isolatable segments
  • Assign one truck to one crew and do not rotate
  • Minimize use of shared equipment and tools
  • Wear gloves as much as possible removing only to eat, drink, or touch your face
  • If you must work in close proximity to another for a short period of time (i.e. lifting a tree ball into a hole) wear a face mask
  • Be prepared to shutdown at any moment if the customer raises any health or safety concerns.

Garden Centers 

Although the order's essential business guidance does not clearly call out garden centers, many garden centers offer fruits and vegetables to customers for home gardening, and sell firewood, pet supplies, and other household essentials. We are seeing some operations across the country adapt by offering call-ahead, website ordering, drive-by pickup, and other creative options to keep material moving and keep customers planting.  As the weather warms and lawns green up, those observing the Stay at Home order may need supplies to maintain their home lawn & garden. We encourage you to think about ways to provide customers the necessary products and services when they are ready.  If you feel apprehensive about opening to the public, we encourage you to seek guidance from your local officials.  Please also monitor social media channels that may influence your decision to operate as usual.

If you choose to continue to provide these garden center services, please follow these BMP’s (Best Management Practices) along with any other procedures you have put in place:

  • Consider offering online shopping, call ahead orders, curbside pickup or delivery as available
  • Limit the number of customers near the cash registers and in the store at any given time. Many retailers are marking the floor in check-out lines to encourage social distancing.
  • Sanitize all carts, baskets, door handles throughout the day as well as the credit card pads and door handles.
  • Staff members will be required to sanitize regularly
  • Have hand sanitizer available at the checkout.
  • Social distancing between staff and customers is required in the store, grounds and greenhouses
  • We respectfully ask any individual exhibiting even minor symptoms to stay home.
  • Permit phone orders

Providing Employee Documentation
While we are not aware of any areas where law enforcement has pulled over drivers, you may want to consider providing your employees with a Work Travel Authorization letter. Click here for an example letter. 


Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions. Continue to check this webpage on the ONLA website for additional updates or follow ONLA on Facebook.


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