EPA revises pesticide protection regulations for agricultural workers

On September 28, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they have completed the much anticipated revisions to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) found in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR) Part 170, ensuring that agricultural workers will have similar health protections as workers in other industries.  The plan to revise the standard was first proposed in February 2014, and establishes stricter Federal regulations to protect the agricultural community from pesticide exposure concerns.  The previous standard has been in effect since 1992.

Some of the highlights of the WPS revision consist of:

  • Safety training will now be required annually instead of every 5 years, and the training requirements have been expanded to prevent take home exposures
  • Minimum age of 18 established for workers applying pesticides
  • No-entry signs will be mandatory following application of most hazardous pesticides until exposure concerns are no longer present
  • Exclusion zones established to protect surrounding populations from pesticide exposure
  • More strict requirements for record keeping and availability for workers to access Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and anti-retaliation provisions will be consistent with those currently in place with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Water retention requirements for routine washing, emergency use and decontamination
  • Continued, but refined exemption for farm owners and their immediate families

Praise & Concerns Arise

Agricultural industry groups and advocates praise the finalization of these new rules, but have expressed concerns that the Federal requirements should be expanded even further.  Some individual States require routine medical monitoring, as well as language translation requirements for safety documents that go above and beyond the current Federal regulations.  The official WPS revision is expected to be published in the Federal Register within the coming weeks.  Further details on the revised EPA Standard can be found here: http://www2.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/revisions-worker-protection-standard

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