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Essential Business Guidelines

The following information was provided during Ohio's Stay at Home Order, which limited public interactions and required the closure of some businesses and services unless deemed "essential".  While Ohio is no longer under a Stay at Home Order, these guidelines will help you to determine safe business practices during the pandemic. 

The guidelines are based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommendations that were established after 9/11. On March 28, the Department of Homeland Security issued revised federal guidance on critical infrastructure sectors and essential workers. The most significant change for horticulture businesses is the explicit inclusion of “landscapers” under the Public Works and Infrastructure Support sector. Some revisions were made under Food and Agriculture Sector that may be at least somewhat helpful with respect to garden retail, depending on business model. Note that the federal guidance is advisory only, and final authority resides at the state and sometimes local level. But these changes may be helpful as ONLA and our industry partners work to support state/local decisions on who may operate consistent with health and safety guidance.

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

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.

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 

In all cases, the ultimate decision and responsibility to remain open rests with the business owner in context of strict adherence to health and safety guidance to protect workers and customers. Many garden centers offer fruits and vegetables to customers for home gardening, and sell firewood, pet supplies, and other household essentials for home maintenance. We are seeing operations adapt by offering creative options to keep material moving and keep customers planting. We encourage you to think about new ways to provide customers the necessary products and services they need.

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, phone 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 and enforce social distancing. Many retailers are marking the floor in check-out lines.
  • Sanitize all carts, baskets, door handles throughout the day as well as the credit card pads and door handles.
  • Require staff members to sanitize regularly
  • Have hand sanitizer available at the checkout.
  • Require social distancing between staff and customers in the store, grounds and greenhouse
  • Respectfully ask any individual, employee or customer, exhibiting even minor symptoms to stay home.


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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