Beginning January 2, 2017, most of the revised EPA Worker Protection Standards (WPS) rules take effect. WPS covers pesticides that are used in the production of agricultural plants on farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses. These regulations seek to protect and reduce the risks of injury or illness resulting from agricultural workers’ (those who perform hand-labor tasks in pesticide-treated crops, such as harvesting, thinning, pruning) and pesticide handlers’ (those who mix, load and apply pesticides) use and contact with pesticides.
Agricultural employers on crop-producing agricultural establishments and commercial pesticide handling establishment employers are responsible for providing WPS protections.
The revisions to the Worker Protection Standard cover many different areas. Major highlights include:
- Annual, rather than five-year, training intervals of workers and handlers regarding the protections afforded to them.
- No grace periods for full training of workers. (Currently, regulations allow for a 5-day grace period with abbreviated training.)
- Trainers must complete an EPA approved train-the-trainer course.
- Expanded training topics to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing, in addition to other safety topics. (Training on the new content will not be required until 2018.)
- Training records that are available to workers and their representatives must be kept for two (2) years.
- Children under 18 are no longer allowed to handle pesticides.
- A no-entry application exclusion zone up to 100 feet around pesticide application equipment during applications. Applications must stop if a person enters the exclusion zone.
- New anti-retaliation provisions.
- Changes in personal protective equipment to be consistent with OSHA’s standards for ensuring respirators are effective, including fit test, medical evaluation and training.
- Specific amounts of water to be used for routine washing, emergency eye flushing and other decontamination, including eye wash systems for handlers at pesticide mixing/loading sites.
- Continue the exemption for farm owners and their immediate families with an expanded definition of immediate family.
Should you have questions about WPS obligations, please contact any attorney in the Bose McKinney & Evans Agribusiness Group.