Worker Safety and Training
Workers in several occupations may be exposed to pesticides by:
- Preparing pesticides for use, such as by mixing a concentrate with water or loading the pesticide into application equipment
- Applying pesticides, such as in an agricultural or commercial setting
- Entering an area where pesticides have been applied to perform allowed tasks, such as picking crops.
EPA's Worker Protection Standard (WPS)
In August 1992, the EPA revised the Worker Protection Standard (40 CFR Part 170) for Agricultural Pesticides. The WPS is a federal regulation designed to protect employees on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses from occupational exposures to agricultural pesticides. The WPS offers protections to approximately 2.5 million agricultural workers (people involved in the production of agricultural plants) and pesticide handlers (people who mix, load, or apply pesticides) that work at over 600,000 agricultural establishments. The WPS contains requirements for:
- pesticide safety training;
- notification of pesticide applications
- use of personal protective equipment
- restricted entry intervals following pesticide application
- decontamination supplies; and
- emergency medical assistance.
All agricultural employers, owners, and managers, as well as labor contractors, are required to comply with the WPS when pesticides with labeling that refers to the WPS have been used on an agricultural establishment. Most WPS requirements apply to agricultural workers or pesticide handlers, but there are some requirements that apply to all persons and some that only apply to certain persons such as those who handle pesticide application equipment or clean pesticide-contaminated personal protective equipment. EPA's National Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center provides information and numerous resources to assist the regulated community with WPS compliance.
Implementation of the Worker Protection Standard
Implementing the WPS is a key part of EPA’s strategy for reducing occupational exposures to agricultural pesticides. EPA has taken a number of steps to ensure effective national implementation and enforcement of the WPS regulation. EPA works closely with its state pesticide regulatory and extension partners to communicate WPS requirements to the regulated community and assure the regulation is being adequately implemented and enforced. State pesticide regulatory agencies, which have primary jurisdiction over pesticide use enforcement, have conducted thousands of WPS inspections nationwide, resulting in numerous enforcement actions for WPS violations. For additional information, please visit EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Web page about national WPS inspection and enforcement accomplishments.
Certification and training
To protect the health and safety of workers and handlers, employers are responsible for training them in the safe use of pesticides.
Certification and training regulations require pesticide applicators to meet certain training and/or testing requirements before they use or supervise the use of pesticides labeled "restricted use." In addition, the pesticide label indicates how a pesticide may be used and what protective clothing or other measures may be necessary for maintaining worker safety.
Pesticide Safety Programs (PSP) is supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pesticide Programs and U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative States Research Extension and Education Services. State land grant university and state pesticide regulatory agency(ies) also support PSP. This web site is designed to provide access to a web site or personal contact for pesticide safety, certification, and training inquiries. There are many resources available to professional applicators regarding certification and training, as well as resources for home and garden pesticide users.
Pesticides requiring applicator certification
EPA categorizes every use of every pesticide as either "unclassified" or "restricted use ." Many times all the uses of a particular formulation are classified as restricted or all are unclassified. Sometimes, however, certain uses of a formulation are restricted and other uses of the same product are not. A pesticide, or some of its uses, is classified as restricted if it could cause harm to humans (pesticide handlers or other persons) or to the environment unless it is applied by certified applicators who have the knowledge to use these pesticides safely and effectively.