CEU Series: Set The Standard For Worker Protection

The federal Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides (WPS) (40 CFR Part 170) was developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and adopted into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in 1992. The standard was fully implemented in 1995 and has been revised since. The WPS Regulation, as well as a listing of recent amendments, is available online. This federal regulation was designed to protect employees on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses from occupational exposures to agricultural pesticides. Approximately 2.5 million agricultural workers and pesticide handlers, working at over 600,000 agricultural establishments, are protected by the WPS.

The WPS requires that agricultural employers take the following steps to reduce the risk of injury or illness when agricultural workers (people involved in the production of agricultural plants) and pesticide handlers (people who mix, load, or apply pesticides) are exposed to pesticides: 1) provide information about exposure to pesticides; 2) provide protections against exposures to pesticides; and 3) offer ways to mitigate exposures to pesticides. This article summarizes the provisions of WPS and related regulations. A good reference for further detail regarding compliance with the WPS is the EPA publication, “How to Comply with the Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides: What Employers Need to Know”, available online at http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/htc.html.

Related Regulations


Florida Agricultural Worker Safety Act (FAWSA)

The Florida Agricultural Worker Safety Act (FAWSA) (Florida Statute 487.2041), enacted in 2004, gives the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) responsibility for enforcing the WPS in Florida. The FAWSA is intended to ensure that agricultural workers employed in Florida are informed of the risks of pesticide use and receive protection from agricultural pesticides. Specific requirements of the FAWSA include the following:

  • Sellers of agricultural pesticides must provide a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) in printed or written format (not via CD, website, or email) to the purchaser upon initial purchase of each agricultural product and upon first purchase after an MSDS has been updated.
  • In turn, agricultural employers must then provide farm workers with either an MSDS or fact sheet, containing information about the impacts of the agricultural pesticide and approved by the state or federal government, in written format. The information must be made available to any worker who either: 1) enters an agricultural area where a pesticide has been applied or a restricted-entry interval (REI) has been in effect within the last 30 days; or 2) may be exposed to an agricultural pesticide during normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency.
  • The MSDS or fact sheet must be made available to the worker within two working days of request. In the case of a pesticide-related medical emergency, the MSDS or fact sheet must be provided in written format promptly on request by a worker, a designated representative, or medical personnel treating the worker.
  • For the purposes of WPS training, FDACS offers a one-page general agricultural safety sheet they must make available to trainers upon request. The safety sheet must be in a language understood by the worker and must include illustrated instructions on preventing pesticide exposure and the toll free telephone numbers for the Florida Poison Control Centers.
  • The FAWSA prohibits agricultural employers from taking retaliatory action against employees who attempt to exercise their rights under this bill. If an agricultural worker has been subject to retaliatory action, they may file a complaint with FDACS.

Per the FAWSA, the FDACS Bureau of Compliance Monitoring (BCM) performs routine inspections of facilities and operations in which pesticides are used. Inspectors cover the components included in the Pesticide Use inspection report and the WPS inspection form. A pdf of these forms, as well as a FDACS Suggested Pesticide Recordkeeping form are available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/PI/PI19500FDACSInspectionForms.pdf. Further information from FDACS on the FAWSA is available at http://www.flaes.org/complimonitoring/workersafety/links.html.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard Provisions

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard Provisions require that employers inform their employees, by means of a written Hazard Communication Program, of the dangers of hazardous chemicals manufactured, imported, distributed, stored, or used in the workplace. Additionally, agricultural employers with 11 or more employees (full-time or part-time) at any one time during the previous 12 months are subject to enforcement of OSHA’s Hazard Communication (or Right-to-Know) Standard.

The Hazard Communication Program must specify how the requirements for labeling and other forms of warning, MSDS’s, and employee information and training will be met. The program must also include a list of the hazardous chemicals present in the workplace, the methods the employer will use to inform employees of the hazards associated with use of these chemicals, and the methods the employer will use to inform contractor employers of the hazards their employees may be exposed to in the workplace.

Hazardous chemical training must be provided to employees at the time of their initial assignment and whenever a new hazard is introduced into their work area. Further information on the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard can be found in the “2009 Handbook of Employment Regulations Affecting Florida Farm Employers and Workers: Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard [Federal]”, which is available on-line at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fe409.

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