New Farmworker Protection Rules Now Employed

The EPA has made changes to the 1992 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) regulations. The agency says the updates were made to protect the nation’s two million agricultural workers and their families from pesticide expose.

The rules are aimed at workers who perform hand-labor tasks in pesticide treated crops and workers who mix, load, or apply pesticides. The new rules place an emphasis on recordkeeping, requiring farms to keep files on a number of items for two years where no records were required before.

Get Up To Speed Now

“There are lots of changes and growers would be well advised to get up to speed on the revisions to WPS, as many of the new requirements went in to effect on Jan. 2, 2017,” says Gene McAvoy, a UF/IFAS Vegetable Extension Agent. “Extension Agents have been busy offering WPS “Train the Trainer” classes around the state, which go over the changes and what growers need to do to comply. In addition all those who hold a ‘Train the Trainer’ certificate must recertify under the new rule.”

There also is more of information online at the EPA WPS website and many Extension offices have a supply of the revised EPA WPS “How to Comply” manual. Growers also can get a copy of the WPS inspection sheet used by inspectors and do a self-assessment.
“Unlike the past, I understand that inspectors will be going directly into enforcement mode,” McAvoy says.

He advises growers pay close attention to new requirements for respirator fit testing and training, medical certification, and documentation of these things when required by an EPA label.

“Revised rules also require that applicators must wear respirators even in tractors with enclosed cabs, if the label requires a respirator,” McAvoy says. “Handlers may be surprised to learn that they can be cited and fined along with their employer for failure to wear label-mandated personal protective equipment.”

Change Highlights

Some of the major changes to the WPS rule are:

  • Annual mandatory training to inform farmworkers on the required protections. This increases the likelihood that protections will be followed. Previously, training is only once every five years.
  • First-time ever minimum age requirement: Children under 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides.
  • Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides. The signs prohibit entry into pesticide-treated fields until residues decline to a safe level.
  • New no-entry application exclusion zones up to 100 feet surrounding pesticide application equipment will protect workers and others from exposure to pesticide overspray.
  • Mandatory recordkeeping to improve states’ ability to follow up on pesticide violations and enforce compliance. Records of application-specific pesticide information, as well as farmworker training, must be kept for two years.
  • Anti-retaliation provisions are now comparable to the Department of Labor.
  • Changes in personal protective equipment will be consistent with the DOL’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards for ensuring respirators are effective, including fit test, medical evaluation, and training.
  • Requires additional specialized certifications for people using high-risk application methods (fumigation and aerial).
  • Requires first-time annual safety training and increased oversight for persons working under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. Training includes reducing take-home pesticide exposure to protect worker families.

Click here for a chart that compares the old WPS rule with the new rule.

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