Worker Protection Standard – Make Sure to Implement Changes Required in 2017

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

Recently, growers in the region have been inspected by the EPA for compliance with the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and significant fines have been imposed for non-compliance. The WPS was changed in 2017 and those changes are now in effect.

One most notable change has been in the training requirement. The following is a summary from the University of Florida Extension: It is required that the full safety training for workers and handlers be conducted annually. Previously, the training was necessary only once every five years. There is no grace period for when workers may be trained; they must be trained prior to working in an area where a pesticide has been used or a restricted-entry interval (REI) has been in effect in the past 30 days. Formerly, there was a five-day grace period for the required training. For handlers, as previously required, training must be conducted prior to performing any handling activity. Only those who are certified applicators, state/tribal/federal-approved trainers, and persons who have completed an EPA-approved train-the-trainer course are qualified to administer training. The training content for both workers and handlers has been expanded to include more items. Formerly, there was no requirement for keeping records of the training. The revised standard dictates that records be kept for 2 years, and a copy of the training record must be provided to workers and handlers upon their request.

When working with labor contractors it cannot be assumed that workers have been trained. Each farm operator should take it upon themselves to make sure all workers are trained each yearly harvest season, all new workers are trained before entering fields, and that records of those trainings are kept.

A second area is regarding notification of treated area. It is required that warning signs be posted if Re-entry Interval (REI) is greater than 48 hours (outdoor applications) or 4 hours (enclosed space applications such as greenhouses). Pesticides with lower REI’s allow for posting or oral notification unless the label requires both. Oral notification can be difficult to reach all employees and hard to document. For most farms, posting would be the most efficient way to comply with the WPS and to keep workers out of treated areas until the REI is past. Posting should be at common entry points into each field. Specific no-entry signs must be used.

A third area within the WPS that has changed is regarding Hazard Communication. Employers must display application information and safety data sheets (SDSs) at a central location within 24 hours of the end of a pesticide application and before workers enter the treated area. The application information and SDSs must be displayed for 30 days after the REI expires, must be kept for 2 years from the end of the REI, and must be made available to workers, handlers, designated representatives (identified as such in writing), or treating medical personnel upon request. Previously, the posting and recordkeeping of SDSs was not required.

In addition changes have also been made in a number of other areas within the WPS:

  • Minimum age for handlers and early entry workers (18)
  • Entry restrictions during applications for outdoor production (zones around fields where workers cannot be during an application are designated)
  • Handler suspends application in certain situations (if there is danger of contacting workers i.e. drift)
  • Exemptions and exceptions (mostly regarding crop advisors and commercial applicators)
  • Basic pesticide safety information (required at central locations and decontamination areas)
  • Personal protective equipment (changes to respirator requirements and need for medical clearance)
  • Decontamination supplies (requirements have changed)
  • Emergency assistance (must be able to promptly provide the SDS, product information – name, EPA Reg No and active ingredient).
  • Definitions of “family” and “employer” (family exemptions have been expanded, employer defined and clarified in regards to contracted labor)
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