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Coronavirus Resources

NCNLA encourages members to be proactive in monitoring the development, regulations and guidance surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19). We will continue to make updates to this page as more industry information is released.

AmericanHort sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue regarding the impact of COVID-19 on industry businesses and the subsequent relief needed to survive. It was signed by over 101 organizations, including NCNLA. Download the letter here.

We have received a significant number of phone calls, emails and social media inquiries regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and whether plant nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers, landscapers, AG suppliers and similar businesses are considered essential in accordance with local or statewide Stay at Home Orders.

On March 27, 2020, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order No. 121 (read here), which includes several references applicable to the nursery and landscape industry:

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 1, Businesses that meet Social Distancing Requirements

Nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers, landscapers and other agribusinesses serve the public in open spaces, “except at the point of sale or purchase” in some cases as allowed by the executive order.

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 5, Essential Infrastructure Operations

This section references “building and grounds management and maintenance including landscaping.”

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 8, Food, Beverage Production and Agriculture

This section references “other production agriculture, including cultivation, marketing, production, and distribution of animals and goods for consumption.”

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 15, Critical Trades

This section references “landscaping and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations.”

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 26, Manufacture, distribution and supply chain for critical products and industries

This section references “manufacturing companies, distributors and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as…agriculture.”

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 30, Additional COVID-19 Essential Retail Businesses

This section references “lawn and garden equipment retailers.”

It should be noted that a few local governments have implemented guidelines that are more stringent than the state guidelines, e.g., Buncombe and Mecklenburg Counties. In situations like this, the more stringent guidelines have jurisdiction. We understand the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) is working with local governments in an effort to standardize the guidelines.

If your business is considered essential, it remains up to you as the business owner to make the final determination as to whether you wish to remain open and continue providing essential products and/or services. You may wish to consult with your employees and your legal counsel before making this determination. Should you decide to continue working, it is suggested you provide your employees with the following documents to carry with them at any job site:

  • March 27, 2020 Executive Order No. 121 as issued by Governor Cooper (download here)

  • March 25, 2020 letter from AG Commissioner Troxler to local law enforcement regarding the essential nature of agriculture (download PDF)

  • Completed copies of the Notice of Essential Food & Agricultural Employee document provided by NCDA&CS (download English Version or Spanish Version)

  • Written confirmation from your customers allowing you to continue working on their property

  • Copies of applicable licenses and/or certifications, e.g., irrigation contractor license, ISA certification, landscape contractor license, NALP certification, pesticide applicator license, SAF certification and others

You should also be prepared to defend your status as an essential product and/or service provider should anyone within the community question your activities. Here are some questions you can consider in developing a response:

  • Is the work you are performing today essential to the health, safety and welfare of the public?

  • Can the work you are performing today be done at a later date or is it time sensitive?

  • What are the repercussions if the work is not performed in a timely manner?

  • Does the work you are performing jeopardize the health and/or safety of your employees, their families or your customers?

Safety Precautions

Once you’ve made the decision to continue operations, it is imperative that you follow the safety guidelines issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Here are some general guidelines for working with your customers and staff. (Download the PDF)

Basic Precautions

  • Keep business units separate whenever possible

  • Wash your hands frequently

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth

  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging or other close contact

  • Cough/sneeze into a tissue or your elbow if no tissue is available

  • Stay home if you are sick

  • Wear disposable gloves when cleaning/disinfecting

  • Avoid gatherings of more than three people at work and maintain social distancing

  • Avoid face-to-face meetings; conduct web-based meetings whenever possible

Landscape Customers

  • Obtain written confirmation from your customers allowing you to continue working on their property

  • Communicate, as accurately as possible, the times you plan to be on their property

  • Inform clients of the safety protocols your company has in place, including but not limited to the proximity rule of 6 feet

  • Designate one point of onsite contact (e.g., the foreman) and ask your customers not to approach any other workers

  • Be prepared to stop work if a customer expresses any health or safety concerns

Retail Customers

  • Use designated restroom facilities and disinfect surfaces

  • Disinfect tools and equipment handles daily

  • Disinfect cash registers, credit card processors, phones and countertops daily

  • Disinfect customer carts and baskets after every use

  • Wear disposable gloves when engaging customers or handling customer items

  • Maintain appropriate distance from customers

  • Provide complimentary hand sanitizer for customers

  • Consider implementing your own maximum occupancy procedures to maintain appropriate social distancing, if necessary

  • Consider offering phone/online orders with curbside pick-up

Basic Staff Guidelines

  • Communicate why the day-to-day products and/or services you provide are essential

  • Communicate and reinforce daily safety protocols

  • Allow employees to stay home if they are uncomfortable working and permit the use of paid time-off, if available

  • Be mindful of any employee currently receiving unemployment benefits before you call them back to work as it may be difficult to reapply due to the large number of people filing

Office & Sales Staff

  • Restrict the use of restroom facilities to office personnel only and disinfect surfaces

  • Disinfect personal workspace, including phones, keyboards and desktops daily

  • Disinfect doorknobs, push bars and cabinet pulls daily

  • Disinfect steering wheels, dashboards and car door handles daily

  • Operate with the minimum number of employees onsite and allow remote working when appropriate

Field Staff & Supervisors

  • Train designated personnel (e.g., foreman) to answer health and safety questions from the public clearly and concisely

  • In instances where employees will be on one job site all day, encourage meeting on-site rather than at the shop

  • When crews must report to the shop, stagger start times to maintain social distancing

  • Operate with the minimum number of employees necessary on any site

  • Do not rotate crew members to minimize interaction

  • Limit the number of crew members per truck and assign one truck that is not shared with other crews

  • Make certain the vehicle is well ventilated and sanitized at the end of each day

  • Always wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and do not share

  • Store PPE in clear plastic bags and sanitize at the end of each day

  • Minimize the use of shared equipment and properly sanitize after each use

  • If crew members must work in proximity to one another for heavy lifting or similar tasks, they should wear facemasks and disposable gloves

Being designated an essential business is a privilege, so represent your company and the industry in a professional and compassionate way as you continue to provide much-needed products and/or services.

Additional Business Templates

We have prepared several templates you can update for your business. You may wish to contact your attorney for guidance on these issues.

  • General guidelines that you can use in protecting against COVID-19. Download here.

  • Verification letter template requesting verification from your clients regarding the essential nature of your services. Download here.

  • Verification letter template for your employees regarding the essential nature of their services. Download here.

Legislative Action

As an NCNLA member, you are encouraged to contact a member of the North Carolina legislature immediately to express your interest in having the nursery and landscape industry declared an essential product or service.

You can find contact information for the N.C. legislators representing your area here. If you receive a reply from a decision maker, please email info@ncnla.com so we can maintain a list to ensure we reach as many individuals as possible.

The following letters are available to modify for your own outreach, or to help in develop talking points:

  • Letter from the National Association of Landscape Professionals regarding the essential role landscapers play in maintaining green space, protecting public safety and boosting morale. (download)

  • Email to John Howard, Emergency Programs and Laura Killian, Legislative Affairs with NCDA&CS regarding the essential need for seasonal workers in the nursery and landscape industry, as well as justification for these businesses to remain open during this difficult time. (download)

Safety Precautions

The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) has provided guidelines for landscaping businesses, but the precautions can apply to other segments of the green industry. In addition to the tips below, visit their resources page to see real business plans from landscape companies in the U.S.

  • Companies should monitor and comply with all Federal, State, or Local advisories and precautionary measures, and closely monitor employee health and, as the CDC advises, actively encourage sick employees to stay home and notify their supervisors if an employee has had close with someone who has contracted COVID-19. Read the CDC Guidance for Business and Employers for more information. 

  • COVID-19 is a recordable illness. OSHA recordkeeping requirements at 29 CFR Part 1904 mandate covered employers record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA 300 log. Note that while 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(2)(viii) exempts recording of the common cold and flu, however, COVID-19 is a recordable illness when a worker is infected on the job. Visit OSHA’s Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements page for more information.

  • Be extra vigilant about disinfecting Personal Protective Equipment PPE equipment. Many industry job functions have the benefit of PPE. Ensure that the equipment is properly disinfected.

Additional CDC Recommendations

The CDC suggests that employers plan to be able to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of severity of a possible outbreak and be prepared to refine business response plans as needed and communicate regularly with employees. A few things to consider include ways to reduce transmission among staff, protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications, maintaining business operations, and minimizing adverse effects on other entities in their supply chains.

Key considerations

  • Disease severity (i.e., number of people who are sick, hospitalization and death rates) in the community where the business is located

  • Prepare for possible increased numbers of employee absences due to illness in employees and their family members, dismissals of early childhood programs and K-12 schools due to high levels of absenteeism or illness.

  • Cross-train personnel to perform essential functions so that the workplace can operate even if key staff members are absent.

  • Explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting for some employees) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees.

  • Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations if needed).

  • Coordination with state and local health officials is strongly encouraged for all businesses so that timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses in each location where their operations reside. Since the intensity of an outbreak may differ according to geographic location, local health officials will be issuing guidance specific to their communities.

  • Share your plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibility, and pay and benefits will be available to them.

  • Limit employee huddles and in-person meetings

AmericanHort addresses pandemic with a statement to the green industry regarding a variety of pressing workforce concerns, including H-2 visa processing, relief legislation. Click to read.

On March 20th, North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler released a statement applauding Homeland Security’s decision to include agriculture. Again, the areas mentioned are related to food production, but agribusiness usually includes nurseries, landscape companies, greenhouses and garden centers.

If you would like to share how you are protecting your business and employees at this time, please email Cindy at cwhitt@ncnla.com.

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North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association

968 Trinity Road
Raleigh, NC 27607