A number of changes in the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015, are now in effect.
Most of the regulations are common-sense based, and many retailers adhered to them long before now, notes Nancy Fitz, a chemical engineer with the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs.
However, she says that isn't necessarily the case with farmers, especially in regard to changes in the use of personal protective equipment. That equipment must now be consistent with the Department of Labor's (DOL) standards and, depending on the individual pesticide label, includes the use of respirators.
Employers, including farmers, are responsible for supplying workers with respirators. In addition, employers must provide employees who mix, load and apply products with a medical evaluation, a respirator fit test and training for proper respirator use.
Fitz's request to retailers: "If you're qualified to do respirator training, let your area farmers know. Or, if you have an organization you work with, point farmers in that direction."
Here's a brief recap of other major revisions to the WPS now in effect:
- Children under 18 are no longer allowed to handle pesticides.
- Annual training must be provided to farmworkers about their rights and responsibilities. This replaces training once every five years.
- Expanded training is required to reduce take-home pesticide exposure on applicators' clothing and protective equipment.
- Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs is required for the most hazardous pesticides.
- Applications must be suspended if people come within 100 feet of (some) application equipment, such as air-blast sprayers.
- Mandatory record keeping is in place to improve states' ability to enforce the rules.