Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

EPA Schedules Compliance Deadline for Revised Agricultural Worker Training Requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jul 24, 2018

PesticideIn November 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted significant amendments to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) that EPA administers using its Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) authority -- FIFRA provides national pesticide regulation, and the WPS is intended to ensure that workers know how to protect themselves when applying pesticides. EPA set compliance deadlines for most revised provisions on January 2, 2017 or January 2, 2018, but left the compliance deadline for expanded training open until the agency could develop and publish training materials. On June 22, 2018, EPA published notice that these materials are ready, giving employers until December 19 to upgrade their training programs accordingly.

What Does WPS Require?

WPS establishes an array of substantive and procedural requirements for employers whose workers handle pesticides, in order to protect those workers from exposures and injuries. Parallel requirements apply to “workers” (often referred to as “agricultural workers”) in general, and to “pesticide workers.”

  • Who qualifies for protections?

WPS offers the following definitions:

  • “Worker means any person … performing activities relating to the production of agricultural plants on an agricultural establishment … [but crop advisors are not “workers”].”

  • “Handler means any person… who is:

    • Mixing, loading, transferring, or applying pesticides.

    • Disposing of pesticides or pesticide containers [not including empty and cleaned containers].

    • Handling opened containers of pesticides.

    • Acting as a flagger.

    • Cleaning, adjusting, handling, or repairing the parts of mixing, loading, or application equipment that may contain pesticide residues.

    • Assisting with the application of pesticides.

    • Entering a greenhouse or other enclosed area after the application and before the inhalation exposure level listed in the labeling has been reached or one of the ventilation criteria established by this part or in the labeling has been met [in order to perform any specified relevant activities] …

  • What protective measures are required?

WPS requires that employers:

  • Keep workers and other people out of areas being treated with pesticides.

  • Keep workers and other people away from pesticide application equipment (out of the application exclusion zones) during applications.

  • Handlers must suspend applications if workers or people are near pesticide application equipment (in the application exclusion zone) during applications.

  • Keep workers out of areas that are under a restricted-entry interval (REI), with a few narrow exceptions.

  • Protect early-entry workers who are doing permitted tasks in pesticide-treated areas during an REI, including special instructions, duties and personal protective equipment (PPE).

  • Monitor handlers who are using highly toxic pesticides.

  • Provide and maintain required PPE.

  • If a pesticide label requires a respirator, provide the handler with a medical evaluation, fit test and respirator training.

  • What mitigation measures are required?

Employers must anticipate and response to incidents, including:

  • Provide decontamination supplies including water, soap and towels for routine washing and emergency decontamination, and eyewash systems for certain handlers

  • Make emergency transportation to a medical care facility available in case of a pesticide injury or poisoning, and provide information about pesticide(s) to which the person may have been exposed.

  • What information must be provided?

Employers must provide the following information:

  • Pesticide safety training for workers and handlers (see below for latest revisions).

  • Access to specific information for workers and handlers, including:

    • Pesticide applications on the establishment. 

    • Safety data sheets (SDSs) for pesticides applied on the establishment.

    • Pesticide safety information (poster) with emergency information.- Access to labeling information for pesticide handlers and early-entry workers.

  • Notification to workers about pesticide-treated areas so they can avoid inadvertent exposures.

  • Information exchange between agricultural employers and commercial pesticide handler employers.

What Do the Newly Expanded Training Provisions Require?

EPA’s training requirements distinguish among several groups of employees, based on their activities:

● Workers who enter a treated area:

  • Required safety information: pesticides may be present; specified ways to protect against direct exposure (PPE, procedures, etc)

  • Training topics:

    • “Where and in what form pesticides may be encountered during work activities.

    • Hazards of pesticides resulting from toxicity and exposure, including acute and chronic effects, delayed effects, and sensitization.

    • Routes through which pesticides can enter the body.

    • Signs and symptoms of common types of pesticide poisoning.

    • Emergency first aid for pesticide injuries or poisonings.

    • How to obtain emergency medical care.

    • Routine and emergency decontamination procedures, including emergency eye flushing techniques.

    • Hazards from chemigation and drift.

    • Hazards from pesticide residues on clothing.

    • Warnings about taking pesticides or pesticide containers home.

    • Requirements of [WPS] designed to reduce the risks of illness or injury resulting from workers' occupational exposure to pesticides, including application and entry restrictions, the design of the warning sign, posting of warning signs, oral warnings, the availability of specific information about applications, and the protection against retaliatory acts.”

A worker who will enter a treated area before the FIFRA-specified post-application entry restriction time must receive training before making an entry, and employees who enter within 30 days after the entry restriction time must receive training before the 6th day of entry. WPS also includes requirements for trainer qualifications, for delivery of information, and for record keeping.

  • Pesticide handlers:

  • “Format and meaning of information contained on pesticide labels and in labeling, including safety information such as precautionary statements about human health hazards.

  • Hazards of pesticides resulting from toxicity and exposure, including acute and chronic effects, delayed effects, and sensitization.

  • Routes by which pesticides can enter the body.

  • Signs and symptoms of common types of pesticide poisoning.

  • Emergency first aid for pesticide injuries or poisonings.

  • How to obtain emergency medical care.

  • Routine and emergency decontamination procedures.

  • Need for and appropriate use of personal protective equipment.

  • Prevention, recognition, and first aid treatment of heat-related illness.

  • Safety requirements for handling, transporting, storing, and disposing of pesticides, including general procedures for spill cleanup.

  • Environmental concerns such as drift, runoff, and wildlife hazards.

  • Warnings about taking pesticides or pesticide containers home.

  • Requirements [for the handler’s employer] for the protection of handlers and other persons, including the prohibition against applying pesticides in a manner that will cause contact with workers or other persons, the requirement to use personal protective equipment, the provisions for training and decontamination, and the protection against retaliatory acts.”

WPS also includes requirements for trainer qualifications, for delivery of information, and for record keeping.

Now What?

Although EPA issued these training requirements in 2015, it has delayed compliance requirements until approved training materials are available. EPA and the nonprofit Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC) have now published these materials, which employers can use as a “safe harbor” to provide training beginning December 19, 2018 (you can develop your own training materials, so long as they meet WPS requirements)

Self Assessment Checklist

Does the organization conduct activities in areas where FIFRA-regulated pesticides are applied?

Do any of the organization’s employees work in activities that WPS defines as:

  • “(Agricultural) workers”?

  • “Pesticide handlers”?

If so, does the organization implement activities that meet WPS requirements?If so, does pesticide-related training meet WPS requirements:

  • As applicable until 12/19/18?

  • As applicable beginning 12/19/18?

Does the organization use the 'safe harbor' training materials provided by EPA and PERC?

Where Do I Go For More Information?

  • EPA notice of materials and compliance requirement (6/22/18 Federal Register) 

  • Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC) website 

  • EPA WPS website 

Specialty Technical Publishers (STP) provides a variety of single-law and multi-law services, intended to facilitate clients’ understanding of and compliance with requirements. These include:

Like What You've Read? Subscribe to Our Blog Now

About the Author

Jon Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 25 years. He was involved in developing 13 existing products, including Environmental Compliance: A Simplified National Guide and The Complete Guide to Environmental Law.

Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).

Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).

You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at: tei@ix.netcom.com

 
 
photo credit: aqua.mech Tractor Fertilize Field Pesticide And Insecticide via photopin (license)

Tags: Environmental, Environmental risks, Hazcom, Employee Rights, Employer Best Practices, Training, EPA