Pesticide handling requirements under the WPS
An employer was fined recently after an inspection showed pesticide application information wasn’t posted at the job site, and an employee applied a pesticide without safety training or personal protective equipment (PPE). Such fines are not extremely rare.
The posting, safety training and PPE are all required under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS). The Weed Science Society of America is providing detailed WPS regulation information as part of its series about pesticide stewardship.
“The WPS is a regulation that protects agricultural workers and pesticide handlers on farms and in forests, nurseries and greenhouses from occupational exposure to pesticides used to treat agricultural plants,” says Ofelio Borges, Farmworker Education Program supervisor, Pesticide Management Division, Washington State Department of Agriculture. “The WPS offers protections to more than 3.5 million people who work with pesticides at more than 560,000 workplaces.”
The detailed WPS regulation contains exact definitions, provisions, exceptions and exemptions. Employers must ensure they fully understand and comply with their WPS responsibilities. If they do not comply, their employees have the right to contact their state pesticide regulatory agency and cannot be retaliated against for doing so.
Key provisions of the WPS include:
Pesticide safety training is required for all agricultural workers and pesticide handlers, with a refresher program at least every five years.
Label and site-specific application information must be easily accessible to all workers and handlers. Label requirements related to safe use must be presented in a manner that will be understood. Central posting of recent pesticide applications is required as well.
Personal protective equipment must be provided by the employer as required on the pesticide label for the specific work task. Employers are also responsible for ensuring that PPE fits correctly and is worn. Reusable PPE must be properly cleaned, maintained, replaced and stored. Even when reduced PPE is permitted (for example, while the worker is in certain types of enclosed cabs), all PPE required by the pesticide label for that task must be provided and immediately available for use in an emergency. Employers must take any necessary steps to prevent heat-related illness while PPE is being worn.
Application equipment used for mixing, loading, transferring or applying pesticides must be inspected before each day of use for leaks, clogging and worn or damaged parts. The equipment must be repaired or replaced if damaged. Employers must also ensure that handlers know how to safely and correctly use pesticide application equipment.