Know Your AEZ and Stop Spraying When Someone is In It

Know Your AEZ and Stop Spraying When Someone is In It April 25, 2018

With spring fieldwork underway, producers and those applying agricultural pesticides must be aware of, and follow, a new federal safety protocol concerning the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ). The protocol was initiated by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect people from pesticides being applied either on the ground or aerially, either alone or with another product such as fertilizer.

The AEZ is an area surrounding application equipment that during a pesticide application must be free of all people other than trained and equipped individuals; this imaginary halo moves with the equipment. The AEZ extends from 25 to 100 feet from the application equipment. The intent is to prevent people from coming into contact with pesticides such as herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides. An AEZ video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOMmDxU1FsY.

No application is allowed if workers or other persons are in the AEZ that is within the boundary of the farm property. In this case, if someone enters the AEZ or treated area, you must stop the application. If you are applying a pesticide and someone enters the AEZ in a neighboring field, road, forest, or whatever is outside of the farm boundary, you must suspend the application, according to EPA. You may resume the application if the person leaves the AEZ or if you are certain the person will not be contacted by spray. An example is if the wind is blowing away from, not toward, that person.

  • The AEZ is 100 feet from the outermost nozzle for aerial, air blast, fumigant, smoke, mist, and fog pesticide applications. It also is 100 feet for spray applications using extremely fine, very fine, or fine droplet sizes.
  • The AEZ is 25 feet from the outermost nozzle when spraying medium or larger droplets, and the product is sprayed from more than 12 inches above the planting medium (soil).
  • No AEZ is required in applications of granular pesticides, soil-incorporated pesticides (not fumigants); and pre-plant, at-plant, and spot-spray pesticide applications, as long as they are less than 12 inches from the soil or planting medium and use a medium or larger spray droplet size. These conditions are more likely to be met in plant nursery settings than in the field.
Illustration of the AEZ zone in a field application
Figure 1. The application exclusion zone (AEZ) is to protect people from coming in contact with pesticides. The size of the AEZ ranges from 25 feet to as much as 100 feet from the application equipment.

Nebraska Extension Pesticide Safety Education video explaining use of the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) in pesticide applications.

Here’s a Scenario

You are spraying a field and notice someone in the AEZ next to the field you are treating. You must suspend the application and cannot proceed until you are sure that the pesticide will not contact anyone who is in the AEZ in areas that extend beyond the boundary of the farm property. You can ask the person(s) to move out of the area, and hopefully they will do so. When that happens, you may resume application.

On the other hand, what if you ask people within the AEZ to move and they don’t? Check to see if they would be contacted by drift if spraying resumed. If the wind is blowing away from them and you know your application will not contact them, you can resume the application. Be careful to watch for changes in wind direction and proceed with caution. When the application is finished, the AEZ no longer exists.

This ruling went into effect Jan. 2, 2018, and is a part of EPA’s Worker Protection Standard (WPS).