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Strategies to Control the Spread of COVID at Seafood Processing Plants: Hand Washing and Personal Protective Equipment



Authors as Published

Authored by Abigail Villalba, Extension Specialist, Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Virginia Tech

Hand Washing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Seafood processing plants can implement practices that will protect workers to exposure to SARS-CoV- 2, the virus that causes COVID-19, so that they are able to continue production while protecting themselves and others. By providing the necessary personal protective equipment and encourage frequent hand washing and the facilities to do so, processors and their employees can mitigate the spread of the COVID virus.

Wash Hands Often

How to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses with these actions: • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose & mouth. • Practice social distancing by putting space between yourself & others. • Wash hands often with soap & water for at least 20 seconds.
  •  Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Rinse and dry with a single use paper towel. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, preferably touch free.
  • Companies should implement short breaks to allow employees to wash their hands more often.
  • Install handwashing stations and/or (touch-free) hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Encourage the use of hand sanitizer by placing hand sanitizers closer to employee’s work, lunch room, and before entering high traffic areas.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

An illustration of a person wearing a mask and adjusting the nasal part for a secure fit.
  • When at work, use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face mask, shield and gloves.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a facemask when around other people. The facemask is meant to protect other people in case you are infected. Continue to keep social distancing (6 feet) between yourself and others even when wearing a facemask.
  • After use, PPE’s are contaminated and should be discarded at the end of the day. Used PPE is not to be taken home.
  • If processing work is “sloppy” or may allow for food particles or water to reach your face, it is recommended to wear a face shield. However, continue to use the face mask while wearing the face shield.

How to Wear a Face Mask

An illustration of side of a person wearing a mask.
  • Face coverings should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops. 
  • Include multiple layers of fabric to allow for breathing without restriction.
  • To prevent fogging when wearing glasses, put mask on first before glasses.

Processing Vessels

  • Establish and ensure employees follow appropriate cleaning, sanitation, and disinfection practices.
  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and monitor their use.

Provide Education, Training, and Communication

  • Teach workers about recognizing COVID-19 symptoms and how they may prevent exposure to the virus.
  • Establish workplace programs to promote effective personal hygiene and use of PPE’s.
  • Implement additional breaks to increase hand washing or hand sanitizer use.
  • Increase access to PPE’s, tissues and touch-free trash receptacles.

Additional Resources

CDC 2020. Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

CDC 2020. Protecting Seafood Processing Workers from COVID-19. Interim Guidance from CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Developed in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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Publication Date

July 15, 2020