Understanding the guidelines put forth by the Department of Labor and OSHA for kitchens in H-2A temporary worker housing is crucial for providing a safe, comfortable, and legal living environment for agricultural workers. From the provisioning of adequate cooking facilities to appropriate measures for vermin control, these regulations are designed to ensure health, safety, and cleanliness. Navigating such regulations can seem like a daunting task. In this blog post, we break down each requirement in an easy-to-understand manner so that you can ensure full compliance with your farm's H-2A housing kitchen setup.
The requirements for kitchens in H-2A housing, according to the Department of Labor and OSHA, include:
Adequate cooking and kitchen facilities
If the grower chooses to meet its meal obligations by furnishing free and convenient cooking and kitchen facilities to the workers, they must provide stoves in a ratio of at least one stove per 10 persons or one stove per two families.
These must be provided for storing and preparing food.
All heating, cooking, and water heating equipment must be installed according to State and local ordinances, codes, and regulations.
An adequate and convenient water supply, approved by the appropriate health authority, must be provided in each housing location for drinking, cooking, bathing, and laundry purposes.
If farmworkers are required to cook, live, and sleep in the same room, a minimum of 100 square feet of floor area is required for each occupant.
The kitchen must contain a kitchen sink, space, and proper facilities for the installation of a refrigerator and, unless otherwise stated in the lease, a stove and oven in good repair.
Provisions for mechanical refrigeration of food at a temperature of not more than 45 degrees Fahrenheit must be provided.
Wall surfaces next to all food preparation and cooking areas must be of nonabsorbent, easy-to-clean material. Wall surfaces next to cooking areas must be made of fire-resistant material.
Garbage and Refuse
Durable, fly-tight, clean containers must be provided to each housing unit for storing garbage and other refuse. Provision must be made for collecting or burying refuse at least twice a week or more often if necessary.
Insect and Rodent Control
Appropriate materials, including sprays, and sealed containers for storing food, must be provided to aid housing occupants in combating insects, rodents, and other vermin.
Or consider 3rd party help
Another option of course is to outsource your housing. That way you can shift the kitchen compliance and maintenance burden, though not all of the liability, onto them. If your farm has operations in the Pacific Northwest Wafla is your lowest risk option, and what we recommend. They can also assist you in making your kitchens (and the rest of your housing) compliant.
In conclusion, ensuring the health and safety of farmworkers in H-2A housing is crucial, and it begins with providing decent kitchen facilities. While the requirements can vary, understanding and complying with these standards not only promotes a healthier living environment for workers, but also safeguards the farm from potential legal ramifications. For this reason, it is highly recommended to seek advice from legal or HR professionals when you have site-specific or situation-specific questions. Bottomline: make the kitchen nice enough that you'd want to cook in it.