With 2017 looming in the not-too-distant future, it’s a good time to discuss the Revised Worker Protection Standard that becomes effective Jan. 2, 2017. If you haven’t made adjustments already, now is the time to figure out how to implement all of the changes required by the revisions. 

The revisions to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) cover many different areas.

The major revisions include:

• Annual mandatory training to inform farmworkers on the required protections afforded to them. Currently, training is only once every five years.

• Expanded training includes instructions to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing and other safety topics.

• A first-time-ever minimum age requirement for pesticide handling: 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' surrounding pesticide-application equipment will protect workers and others from exposure to pesticide overspray.

• Requirement to provide more than one way for farmworkers and their representatives to gain access to pesticide-application information and safety data sheets—centrally posted or by requesting records.

• 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 comparable to Department of Labor’s (DOL).

• Changes in personal protective equipment will be consistent with DOL’s standards for ensuring respirators are effective, including fit test, medical evaluation and training.

• Specific amounts of water to be used for routine washing, emergency eye flushing and other decontamination, including eye wash systems for handlers at pesticide mixing/loading sites.

• Continue the exemption for farm owners and their immediate families, with an expanded definition of immediate family.

The one that I really want to draw your attention to is the mandatory yearly training and education. I know this should be a great thing, but to require attendance every year is a little redundant for full-time or returning seasonal workers. Perhaps every five years was too infrequent, but it did serve the purpose very well.  Maybe three years would have been a better option, but never the less, we will have to attend yearly updates.

Here are the only ones that will not go into effect until Jan. 2, 2018, according to the EPA website:

• The new content must be included in the pesticide safety information display [170.311(a)(3)].

• The new content requirements must be covered in worker and handler pesticide-safety training [170.401(c)(3) & 170.501(c)(3)].

• Handlers must suspend applications if anyone is in the application exclusion zone [170.505(b)].

Until these new requirements become enforceable, the existing WPS regulations (subparts A, B and C of 40 CFR part 170) remain in effect.

Whatever our individual concerns are with implementing the new standards, it’s time to prepare now and establish ways to implement the revisions to be up to code. NAICC is looking into providing a train-the-trainer course for our members, and we will keep you updated on the details.

This article appeared in the November issue of Ag Pro magazine

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