Revisions to Worker Protection Standard Effective January 2017
The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) has been a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety regulation since 1992, designed to protect people working in agriculture from pesticide poisoning and injury. Agricultural workers (those involved in the production of agricultural plants) and handlers (those who mix, load, or apply crop pesticides) will have increased protection thanks to 2015 revisions, effective January 2017 and January 2018.
In brief, WPS applies whenever a pesticide with a WPS box (Agricultural Use Requirements) on the label is used to produce an agricultural plant on an agricultural establishment such as a farm, forest, nursery, or greenhouse. Owners and employers (managers) of agricultural establishments must provide annual pesticide safety training to workers and handlers.
Certified pesticide applicators, certified crop advisors, and immediate family members of the owner are exempt from this safety training. The definition of immediate family members is quite broad, to include the agricultural owner’s spouse, parents, stepparents, foster parents, father-in-law, mother-in-law, children, stepchildren, foster children, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and first cousins.
WPS requires that pesticide handlers and early-entry workers must have access to pesticide labeling information. Early-entry workers are those who enter a treated area before the restricted entry interval (REI) listed on the pesticide label has passed. The labeling information includes the pesticide product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
Other WPS requirements include:
- Expanded training to prevent take-home exposure from work clothing, etc.
- Access to specific information for workers and handlers, such as
- Pesticide applications made on the establishment
- Emergency information
- Pesticide safety information
- Keeping workers out of areas being treated with pesticides or under an REI.
- Requiring early-entry workers and handlers to be at least 18 years old (except immediate family members).
- Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and training on its use to handlers.
- If respirators are required by the pesticide label, the handler must have a medical evaluation, fit test, and training that conforms to OSHA requirements; records are kept for two years.
- No-entry signs must be posted if a pesticide has an REI of more than 48 hours (outdoor) or more than four hours (enclosed areas such as a greenhouse), or if required by the label.
- Access to decontamination supplies, including soap, towels, and specific amounts of water for routine washing and emergency decontamination, such as eye flushing.
- Transportation to a nearby medical facility in case of a pesticide injury or poisoning.
- Keeping records of pesticide applications and hazard information for two years.
In January 2018, WPS requirements regarding the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) go into effect. The AEZ is designed to prevent human exposure during an application. It is defined as a space 25 to 100 feet around the application equipment, and can extend beyond the boundary of the field to adjacent property and roads. An applicator must suspend the application if a worker or other person enters the AEZ during treatment. The applicator must stop, assess the situation, and if certain a person in the AEZ that extends beyond the boundary of the establishment will not be exposed to the pesticide (based on wind direction, drift management practices, etc.), may resume the application. An applicator cannot resume application while workers or others are within the AEZ on the establishment property.
For more information, see U.S. EPA’s How to Comply with the Worker Protection Standard, available at http://pested.unl.edu, or Nebraska Extension’s new publication, Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Establishments, at http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/ec3006.pdf.