For farmers markets without a facility due to COVID-19, what are the rules on access to restrooms?

By Amanda Douridas, Christie Welch, Peggy Kirk Hall, Ohio State University Extension

With the closing of many public places and government buildings, some farmers’ markets may be left without their usual access to restrooms. What are the requirements for market managers to provide restroom facilities?

The Ohio Revised Code states that restrooms must “be readily accessible to farmers’ market personnel when the farmers’ market is open for more than four consecutive hours.” Note that this requirement applies to “personnel” or employees of the market. There is not a restroom requirement in the regulation that applies to vendors or customers of the farmers’ market.

One option for easily complying with this rule is to limit farmers’ market hours to four hours or less, since the obligation applies only if the market is open for more than four consecutive hours. For markets that are open for more than four hours, the other option is to rent a portable toilet for personnel if permanent facilities are not available. And while there is no requirement for restrooms to be available to the public, some markets like to offer this as a courtesy to their vendors and shoppers. In light of the social distancing orders, use by customers may be very limited or non-existent. But what about your market personnel?

We know during normal operations, many markets have restroom access, especially for vendors. But during the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that many of the facilities that markets had access to are now closed; portable toilet rental might be the best option. Markets may be able to get a reduced rate if the toilet is only being used for a few hours a week. Locking the toilet with a padlock when the market is closed will ensure no one accesses it outside market hours. The code also state “[a]ll equipment and facilities used in a farm market, farmers’ market, and a farm product auction shall be maintained and clean.” So, it will need to be maintained and cleaned. A temporary hand washing station can be setup using a 5 gallon thermal container with warm water and a 5 gallon bucket to catch the water. Add soap and paper towels on the table, along with a trash can for a complete station.

If restrooms had been available, but now will not be, let vendors know so they can be prepared for the change. This would be a nice courtesy to them since vendors are unable to leave during market hours.

Also make sure your vendors and customers understand this is NOT business as usual. While we love farmers’ markets for their social atmosphere, those activities need to be stopped to help maintain everyone’s safety and health. The goal at this time should be to allow customers to access locally produced food from farmers with as little interaction as possible. Signage to remind your customers to maintain social distance, to not touch the produce, and to get their items and exit the market quickly are also good practices at this time.

For more information about operating farmers’ markets during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may want to check out the Ohio Farmers Market Network resource page: https://go.osu.edu/covid19ofm.

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