EPA proposes new pesticide farm worker safety rules

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced proposed revisions to the Worker Protection Standard related to pesticide use because it claims workers on family farms to ag retailer operations to harvest workers need protected more than is currently occurring. The EPA issued new standards “in order to protect the nation’s two million farm workers and their families from pesticide exposure.”

“Today marks an important milestone for the farm workers who plant, tend and harvest the food that we put on our tables each day,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator.  “EPA’s revised Worker Protection Standard will afford farm workers similar health protections to those already enjoyed by workers in other jobs. Protecting our nation’s farm workers from pesticide exposures is at the core of EPA’s work to ensure environmental justice.”

EPA is proposing significant changes, which it contends are improvements to worker training regarding the safe usage of pesticides, including how to prevent and effectively treat pesticide exposures. Increased training and signage would be required to inform farm workers about the protections they are afforded under the law to help them protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure. 

Workers and others near treated fields will now be protected from pesticide overspray and fumes. The news release does not go into details related to fumes near application sites, although that is potentially a big change.

In addition, EPA has proposed that children under 16 be legally barred from handling all pesticides, with an exemption for family farms. The days of teens helping spray fields with herbicides could be numbered, according to the announcement.

“These revisions protect workers while ensuring agricultural productivity and preserving the traditions of family farms,” the EPA contends.

“This proposal represents more than a decade of extensive stakeholder input by federal and state partners and from across the agricultural community including farm workers, farmers and industry on the current EPA Worker Protection Standard (WPS) for Agricultural Pesticides first established in 1992,” the announcement states. 

For more information on the EPA’s Proposed Worker Protection Standard you can click here.


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