As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, the FTA board, staff, and our U.S. Forest Service partners have been closely monitoring conditions in Florida, and working together to provide operating procedures that keep our members, staff, volunteers, partners and the public safe.
FTA functions and activities at the state or chapter levels can resume, as long as they are conducted in accordance with this procedure, as well as applicable local, state and federal requirements and guidelines. The overall goal is to minimize all participants’ possible exposure to the virus. By signing the FTA Assumption of Risk, Modified for COVID-19, you will be acknowledging that you have reviewed the FTA COVID 19 Operating Procedures, Revision 2, 7-30-2020 and you will comply with them, and that you will follow the instructions of the persons in charge (Activity Leader, Trail Crew Leader, etc.).
Note that it is always acceptable for an individual to decide that they do not wish to participate, after reviewing the potential risks for severe illness associated with the COVID-19 virus (see the CDC and FL Dept. of Health reference links provided below) against their personal and family situation.
- As always, only hike sections of the trail that are open to the public according to the relevant land managing agency.
- If significant travel is required, we recommend instead that you explore your local trails and open spaces to reduce risk of spreading the disease.
- Follow CDC social distancing guidelines while hiking.
- Avoid trailheads that appear to be crowded.
- All work associated with trail maintenance is to be accomplished in accordance with the USFS Job Hazard Analysis (JHA), Work Project/Activity COVID-19, most current version, FTA Trail Manual, as well as all other applicable FTA and USFS trail maintenance procedures.
- The trail sections to be worked must be open and accessible for maintenance activities per the appropriate land management agency.
- Forest Service liability coverage for trail maintainers now resumes as long as all work is in accordance with the requirements defined in the USFS JHA’s.
- If you have any questions or needs, please contact your Chapter Trail Coordinator or our FTA Regional Trail Managers:
JHA COVID-19 FNST Executed 30June2020- We highly recommend that crew leaders attach the COVID-19 JHA to confirmation emails sent to volunteers in advance of events.
One Pager COVID 19 Trail Maintenance Guide– Feel free to print this handy graphic for use at trail maintenance events or attach the document to confirmation emails sent to volunteers in advance of events.
Frequently Asked Questions for Trail Maintenance
How long will the COVID-19 JHA and these precautions be in effect?
Until further notice. FTA and USFS staff will be closely monitoring conditions and severity of the virus and respond as necessary.
Is a crew leader liable if someone on their crew contracts COVID-19?
No. When participants sign the mandatory Assumption of Risk form, the FTA and crew leader are removed of liability.
What if local protocols require more restrictions or PPE than the COVID-19 JHA?
JHAs do not supersede any laws/ordinances passed by any governing body. Crew leaders should follow JHA protocols at a minimum. If local laws are more strict than the JHA, those laws should be followed.
Are there any age restrictions on participating in trail maintenance?
No. However, individuals who are considered to be at increased risk for severe illness, either due to age or preexisting conditions, are encouraged to evaluate the risks associated with trail maintenance and make an informed decision on their participation.
What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19 after attending an FTA event?
Notify your crew leader immediately if you have conducted volunteer activities, maintained tool caches, touched or maintained equipment, or attended a meeting and then have any symptoms of or tested positive for COVID-19.
If I have tested positive for COVID-19, when can I become involved again as a volunteer?
Stay home if you have any symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19. You may participate in events after you receive two negative test results in a row, at least 24 hours apart and when you are no longer showing symptoms of COVID-19 for at least 10 days.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
Will crew leaders be providing masks and hand sanitizer?
Each FTA chapter has been provided a small stock of masks and hand sanitizer, however we strongly encourage participants to provide their own. Participants are also highly encouraged to bring their own hard hats, eye protection and work gloves if possible, to reduce the amount of shared equipment that needs to be cleaned after the event.
What kinds of masks are acceptable to wear?
Disposable surgical type masks or other available cloth face coverings such as bandanas, buffs, or homemade cloth masks are acceptable. The CDC recommends that 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;
- Allow for breathing without restriction;
- And be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
What about N-95/N-100 masks?
N-95/N-100 type masks are not to be worn while conducting trail work on the FNST as they are only to be worn as part of a formal respiratory program that has training and fittings. Voluntary usage of this type of mask is also not allowed. Surgical masks and N95s are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by CDC. In addition, N95 and surgical facemasks induce significantly different temperature and humidity in the microclimates of the facemasks, which have profound influences on heart rate and thermal stress and subjective perception of discomfort.
Do I need to wear a mask at all times?
Masks should be worn at a minimum during potential close contact, such as but not limited to safety or tailgate briefings. Crew leaders may require that masks be worn at all times if laws or ordinances require.
What if a participant refuses to wear a mask or follow other protocol when required?
Crew leaders have the authority to ask that participant to leave the event.
What kind of protective eyewear and gloves are needed while conducting trail maintenance?
The COVID JHA does not make any changes to eye protection requirements for general trail maintenance– volunteers should still wear ANSI Z87.1 certified eye protection. The COVID JHA also does not make any changes to the hand protection requirements for general trail maintenance– volunteers should wear work gloves while conducting trail maintenance.
What PPE should be worn when cleaning or disinfecting?
Volunteers and staff should wear nitrile gloves, protective clothing, face protection, and eye protection (such as safety glasses) for all tasks in the cleaning and disinfecting process, including handling trash. Refer to the label of the product being used in order to determine what PEE and precautions are required.
Will there be group meals at work parties this year?
Chapters and staff will have the option to provide group meals at events if the abatement actions on the COVID-19 JHA are followed. Please refer to the specific event listing or contact the crew leader to determine if meals will be provided at a particular event. Participants always have the option to bring their own meals if preferred.
Is there a cap on how many people can attend a volunteer event?
Refer to local laws for restrictions on total group size. When separating into crews for conducting trail maintenance in the field, each crew should be limited to 5 people maximum.
Can participants carpool between the meeting location and the location of trail work, if needed?
Minimize carpooling/ride sharing to the extent practicable. When sharing vehicles with non-household members, try to be spaced apart as much as possible. Crack windows to allow for fresh air flow and ventilation. Everyone in a vehicle should wear a mask/facial covering if not travelling with a household member.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Wear nitrile gloves while handling used equipment and be sure to wash hands after removing gloves with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol may be used. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. DIY disinfecting solution: 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.
Hard hats- Use mild soap and warm water and wipe off any dirt and grime. Hard hats should be rinsed with clean water, the shell wiped dry with a soft cloth, and the suspension and sweatband allowed to air dry.
Work gloves- Procedures will vary based on the material the gloves are made of. Manufacturers may be consulted for their guidance and experience in disinfecting their respective products.
Eye protection- Manufacturers may be consulted for their guidance and experience in disinfecting their respective products.
Frequently touched surfaces (for example, tool handles)- Remove dirt and debris with water before disinfecting.
- The venue for holding the function or activity must be open with their rules and regulations in support of conducting the event. The activity must also be conducted in compliance with the venue’s rules and regulations even if they are more stringent than the FTA Operating Procedure.
- The local and state governments are providing re-opening guidance concerning avoiding groups larger than a certain size, to minimize the potential for close contact and violating the social distancing requirement. The participation number at the present time is established per the state guidelines for opening up Florida, Phase 2, which states that all persons in Florida are encouraged to avoid congregating in groups larger than 50, however there are currently local exceptions in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties where the group size is limited to 10. The phase and numbers can change, the leader needs to review the local and state agencies to ensure that compliance with guidance is maintained.
- The venue where the function or activity is being conducted greatly influences the ability to ensure that close contact can be avoided.
- The leader(s) conducting each specific event must evaluate all aspects to ensure that the procedure and guidelines can be complied with in a safe manner, and may determine that the participation numbers must be less than the above values. The leader(s) also may determine alternative ways of conducting the activity to reduce the risks of violating social distancing; an example of this would be breaking a hike with 20 participants (if allowable in the specific locality) into two separate 10 participant hikes with a staggered start.
- Do not attend or participate in any in-person FTA functions or activities, if you meet any of the following conditions:
- You have tested positive for COVID-19 virus, and have not been cleared by your physician to re-join these types of public activities.
- You knowingly have been exposed to a person infected with the COVID-19 virus.
- You have or have had any of the potential COVID-19 virus symptoms listed below in the 14 days prior to the in-person function or activity.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repeated shaking or chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore Throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
- You have evaluated the current situation associated with the COVID-19 virus in your locality, have evaluated your risk profile for severe illness based on known information (see the CDC and the FL Dept. of Health links provided below), and have determined that you would rather defer on the function or activity until the COVID-19 virus situation improves.
CRITICAL – IF YOU TEST POSITIVE TO COVID-19 OR ARE HAVING ANY OF THE ABOVE SYMPTOMS AFTER HAVING PARTICIPATED IN ANY RECENT FUNCTION, ACTIVITY, OR HAVE BEEN IN CONTACT WITH FTA PERSONNEL, EQUIPMENT OR MATERIALS, NOTIFY THE APPROPRIATE CONTACT PERSONS (FTA or CHAPTER LEADERSHIP) IMMEDIATELY AND INFORM THEM OF THE SITUATION SO THAT THEY CAN EVALUATE AND DETERMINE IF OTHER INDIVIDUALS MAY BE AT RISK.
Safety Precautions and Measures to Reduce / Mitigate Risk during the Functions or Activities:
- Practice social distancing to the maximum extent practicable (a minimum of a six feet distance between each individual) throughout the function or activity.
- Avoid close contact with non-household members, those who show any symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, including those people who you encounter or interface with during the function or activity, either outdoors or indoors, as much as practicable.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, after having been in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, having handled equipment owned by others, etc. If soap and water are not available, disinfect your hands using hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol).
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing using the inside of your elbow or a tissue. Dispose of the tissues properly and promptly in the trash.
- Avoid using / sharing / contacting other person’s equipment or materials to the extent practical. If it is necessary, the user should clean and disinfect the item prior to and after use, as well as their own hands.
- Avoid sharing drinks or food with others.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wear a disposable mask or other cloth face covering for source control during the function or activity whenever there is a significant possibility that the social distancing cannot be maintained. Typical examples during an activity would be during the pre-activity sign-in and group briefing. Each participant is expected to bring their own mask or face covering. For additional information on masks and the proper method of use, go to the listed references. (Note that CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings for source control.)
- Wear protective gloves while handling other people’s gear unless you wipe down the surfaces prior to being touched with a disinfectant.
- When cleaning or disinfecting item or equipment surfaces, ensure adequate ventilation and comply with all product safety instructions. Also depending on the cleaning agent and methodology being used, personal protective equipment such as eye protection, protective gloves and clothing may be required.
- Utilize video conferencing and group calls whenever practicable to reduce the personal interactions.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
- Cloth Face Coverings / Disposable Masks – Recommendations for these face coverings:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
- Be secured with ties or ear loops.
- Include multiple layers of fabric.
- Allow breathing without restriction.
- Able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change of shape.
- Hand Sanitizer – Must contain at least 60% alcohol.
- Safety Glasses / Plastic Face Shields – In addition to normal eye protection function, they can protect against potential airborne virus as well as splatter during cleaning operations.
- Protective Gloves and Clothing –
- Nitrile gloves
- After removing gloves, wash hands.
- Exercise care when removing to ensure against contamination of user and area.
- Note that if someone is injured on the activity and you need to administer first aid, you should wear gloves while contacting patient.
- Disinfectant Cleaner Products – Most cleaning products will be effective in disinfecting against the virus, for additional information go to the CDC or Florida Health Department links.
- First Aid Kit – Ensure that the group first aid kit contains at least two sets of nitrile protective gloves and face masks/face coverings, and hand sanitizer to address emergency issues that may arise during the activity.
Food, Snacks and Beverages Preparation, Handling and Serving:
- The safest method for minimizing transfer risks is to only consume drinks and food that you personally bring to the event.
- If there is to be any type of group preparation or distribution of drinks and food during the event, the following should be employed to minimize the risks:
- All persons involved in the food preparation, cooking and serving must wash their hands properly by either soap and water or if not available hand sanitizer, prior to any involvement and then frequently during.
- Ensure that all surfaces and equipment used in food preparation, cooking and serving are cleaned and disinfected before and after use.
- Minimize the number of persons preparing, cooking, serving, or in close contact with food and equipment as much as practicable, and these persons should be employing the appropriate PPE.
- Do not employ self-service or buffet style food distribution, have a dedicated person wearing gloves to plate food, as well as other appropriate PPE.
- Do not employ a common cooler where participants take their drinks, have a dedicated person wearing gloves to provide drinks.
- At the headquarters, the kitchen will only be used for individual person food and drink preparation, and that person is responsible for washing dishes and cleaning up afterwards. Note that only single use towels will be utilized.
Traveling to and from Function or Activity:
- Avoid close contact with non-household members, those who show any symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, including those people who you encounter or interface with during travel to the function or activity, as much as practicable.
- Reduce carpooling or ride sharing as a means of practicing social distancing.
- When sharing vehicles with non-household members, maximize separation as much as possible, open windows to allow fresh air flow and circulation, and each person should wear a mask/facial covering.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces of the vehicle after use.
- Wear a disposable mask or other face covering during the function or activity whenever there is a significant risk of violating social distancing requirements.
- Do not share workspace.
- Utilize video conferencing and group calls if practicable to reduce the personal interactions.
- Avoid crowded offices and workspaces to extent practicable.
- Ensure adequate ventilation based on the cleaners and disinfectants being used.
Wash and disinfect work surfaces and frequently touched surfaces.