Questions for suppliers about fair and safe labor practices


Quote about hospital's role protecting workers

For hospitals unable to access any of the recommended certifications for a valued workforce, Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth have created a list of questions to ask food suppliers. Although these questions are most appropriate for direct purchases, we encourage you to consider how they might apply to distributors and other intermediaries.

Learn more about ethical food purchasing and health care's role in protecting workers


  1. How do you incorporate the concerns of your farmworkers into your practices and policies?
  2. What steps are you currently building into your farm policies to protect and support your workers, their families, and the communities? What are your goals for your farm and how do you plan to meet them?
  3. How are undocumented workers incorporated into your policies and practices?
  4. Does an outside person or organization check that you are following these guidelines that you have set for yourself? Is an outside audit available for our use?

Farmworker health and safety

  1. What protections do you have in place for workers who are vulnerable to exploitation? What is your process if a worker makes a report of exploitation?
  2. What do you pay your farmworkers? What does this pay rate look like in comparison to comparable farms, the local minimum wage, and local cost of living?
  3. How do you respond to accusations of abuse or discrimination? What safety net is in place for people who report incidents of abuse or discrimination?
  4. What are your hiring practices? What protections do you have in place for potential hirees who are vulnerable to discrimination? 
  5. What do you include in your anti-discrimination policies? How do you enforce the policies?
  6. What do breaks look like for your farmworkers? How many water or bathroom breaks do they have each day? 
  7. What are your farmworker facilities like? How many bathrooms are there? What sort of practices do you employ around cleaning the different facilities?
  8. Are workers afforded tenants rights?
  9. Do you provide a full, consecutive 24 hours off each week for your farmworkers?
  10. What pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are used in growing these foods? How do you label and store these pesticides? When during the day do you spray them? How long until farmworkers are back in the fields after spraying?
  11. What provisions have you made to protect farmworkers from the weather? Is shade, natural or built, provided to protect from sun exposure? Is that shade available in the field or during breaks?

Note: There are multiple opportunities for producers to learn more about navigating labor requirements and providing appropriate accommodations for their work force. The following programs offer producers enhanced training and education materials on issues of labor and occupational safety:

  • AgSafe Agriculture Certification A two-day program that provides indi­­­viduals with a broad-based education in the essential issues of workplace health and safety in agricultural fields.  
  • EPA Ag Worker Protection Standard Aims to reduce pesticide poisoning and injuries amongst agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. 
  • Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act The main federal law that protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers in the United States by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures, and record-keeping. 
  • OSHAcademy Agricultural Safety A program designed to help employees meet OSHA’s health and safety training requirements. 
  • Youth Farm Safety & Education Certification Supports national efforts to deliver timely, pertinent, and appropriate farm safety education to youth seeking employment or already employed in agricultural production.
  • Safe Quality Food Provides a system to manage food safety risks and provide safe products for use in the food industry. 
  • USDA GAP Voluntary audits that verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards. 

Social and economic determinants of health

  1. What medical safety net is in place for your workers? 
  2. How do you support the immigrant workers on your farm, whether documented or undocumented? How are you engaging with the immigration system – do you help with H2-A visas? 
  3. Do you provide housing to your farmworkers? If so, what do you charge and how is the housing maintained? What is the per capita square footage of the housing?
  4. Do you provide paid sick, parental, or bereavement leave to your workers?

Resilient communities

  1. Is there a farmworkers union for your farm? Do you allow collective bargaining? 
  2. Do you allow forworker-led organization at some level of your governance structure?
  3. Are workers involved in program monitoring and enforcement? 
  4. Is there a formal process in place for workers to continuously report health and safety concerns or violations? 

Join Practice Greenhealth

Practice Greenhealth is the health care sector’s go-to source for information, tools, data, resources, and expert technical support on sustainability initiatives that help hospitals and health systems meet their health, financial, and community goals.

Join now