Learn The Laws To Ensure Worker Safety
The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a set of federal regulations designed to protect agricultural employees, especially farm workers, from possible harm from pesticides used in the commercial production of agricultural plants. “Agricultural plants” are plants on or in farms, nurseries, greenhouses, and commercial forests. The law has been in effect since Jan. 1, 1995, with a revision in Sept. 2005. In July 2004, the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (FDACS) adopted EPA’s WPS regulations as the Florida Agricultural Worker Safety Act (FAWSA) by rule.
The three groups of people affected by both the WPS and FAWSA are:
• Agricultural employers are growers and others who employ agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.
• Agricultural workers are individuals who perform hand labor tasks such as harvesting, thinning, pruning, and related tasks on agricultural establishments where they do not come into direct contact with pesticides.
• Pesticide handlers are individuals who come into direct contact with pesticides during mixing, loading, and/or applying pesticides, or by repairing or cleaning equipment that contains pesticides.
The three main goals of the WPS and FAWSA are:
1) Protect agricultural workers and pesticide handlers
2) Provide pesticide safety information
Protecting Workers And Handlers
The main way that employers can protect their employees from pesticides is to help them avoid exposure. This means that pesticide handlers must know that any pesticide they apply cannot come in contact with nearby agricultural workers. At the same time, agricultural workers must know that they need to stay out of areas being treated with pesticides (notification). The minimum distance is one-quarter mile for most applications, though distances are smaller for nurseries.
Employers must tell their workers when and where pesticide applications will take place and how long they must stay out of the treated area. If the pesticide label permits, the notification can be done orally, though some pesticides require that the treated area be posted with EPA-approved signs.
Employers must provide safety information about the pesticides that are being used. This should be done by displaying information at a central location. Required information includes both an EPA-approved central location poster and specific information about pesticides that have been used on or in the farm, nursery, greenhouse, or forest. In Florida, the records need to include both the time the application begins and the time it ends. Maintain the pesticide information posted at the central location for at least 30 days after the expiration of the restricted entry interval (REI) listed on the product’s label.
The other component of providing information is pesticide safety training for both agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. Trainers must meet specific qualifications such as being a licensed pesticide applicator or attending a FDACS-approved train-the-trainer course. Training must be done in a language that the employees understand, using a translator if necessary. The trainer must use EPA-approved training materials. Trainers should keep good records of training sessions using a sign-in sheet. Training is valid for five years. After that, workers and handlers must be retrained.
FDACS assists Florida producers by providing many WPS materials, including the central location poster and training materials. The order form can be found at www.flaes.org/complimonitoring/workersafety/index.html. According to FDACS, the two most common WPS violations in Florida are related to the central location (38% in 2007) and pesticide safety training (36%).
Employers must provide decontamination supplies for both agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. For workers, the supplies must be kept within a quarter-mile of where they are working. Supplies include water, single-use towels, and soap. These must be available for 30 days after the expiration of the longest REI that has been used. Handler supplies must include water for emergency whole body washing, clean coveralls (pro-
tection from exposure to pesticides), soap, single-use towels, and 1 pint of water for emergency eye flushing when protective eyewear is listed on the pesticide label.
If an employee is exposed to a pesticide or involved in an accident with pesticides, the employer must provide transportation to the nearest medical facility. The employer must also provide information about the pesticide and the circumstances involved in the exposure. This includes the product name, EPA registration number, active ingredient(s), and first aid and medical information from the label, and the MSDS.
The handler’s employer is responsible for providing specific information about the pesticide application, including the type of posting that is required and all other safety requirements on the labeling. When scouts or other contact employers plan to visit the facility, the producer must provide specific information about areas that have been treated and where REIs are in effect.
One of the key provisions of the WPS is that employers cannot fire either agricultural workers or pesticide handlers who are trying to comply with the Worker Protection Standard and the Florida Agricultural Worker Safety Act. This is known as “protection against retaliation.”
The best source for information about the Worker Protection Standard is the How to Comply manual, published by the EPA and found at
If you would like to learn more about the Florida Agricultural Worker Safety Act, visit www.flaes.org/complimonitoring/workersafety/index.html.