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Certification and Training of Pesticide Applicators

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Certification and Training of Pesticide Applicators

Certain Pesticides may be applied only by or under the direct supervision of specially trained and certified applicators. Certification and training programs are conducted by states, territories, and tribes in accordance with national standards.

One avenue through which EPA contributes to the competency of restricted use pesticide applicators is by funding the pesticide safety education program (PSEP). Since 1975, EPA has had an interagency agreement (IAG) with USDA to distribute funds to the state cooperative extension service for the purpose of training restricted use pesticide applicators. The need for periodic program assessment, increased client demands, the need for accountability measures, and budget pressure led to the decision to assess the effectiveness of PSEP to efficiently meet the demands of clients and to support national EPA goals to develop and sustain competency in pesticide applicators, thereby helping to ensure the safe application and the safe use of pesticides.

The Certification and Worker Protection Branch of the Office of Pesticide Programs conducted a strategic program assessment of the pesticide safety education program (PSEP). Initiated in July 2004, the assessment collected a range of informed perspectives from participants who represented federal and state regulatory programs, state cooperative extension training programs, and the external clients of PSEP. While assessment was not structured to reach consensus, the resulting range of perspectives were designed to inform EPA, and to a degree USDA, about the future management, funding and direction of programs that are designed to help ensure pesticide applicator competency. The report details the intent and process used to conduct the assessment, captures common themes from discussions and written perspectives, and outlines the Agency’s areas of focus for follow-up.

Report on the Strategic Program Assessment of the Pesticide Safety Education Program (67 pp, 548K, About PDF)

USDA's Federal Pesticide Recordkeeping Program Exit EPA disclaimer requires all certified private pesticide applicators to keep records of their use of federally restricted use pesticides for a period of two years.

Pesticide Applicator Core Exam Project

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) have collaborated on a project to develop an exam of core principles for all pesticide applicators. The exam will be made available to all U.S. pesticide State Lead Agencies and Canadian provincial governments to test first-time candidates for pesticide applicators. Core principles are basic knowledge common to all pesticide applicators, regardless of their category or type of application.

The project began by conducting a job analysis of a pesticide applicator. The U.S. EPA and PMRA convened a committee of pesticide applicators representative of the different areas of U.S. and Canada, categories of applicators and years of experience. The committee developed a list of tasks consisting of knowledge, skills and abilities common to all applicators. Five thousand applicators in the U.S. and Canada were asked to measure the importance of each task on the list to their job. The committee used the results to develop a blueprint of the exam. The blueprint is an outline of the number of exam questions, and their level of difficulty, that will be written for each subject area of the exam. All questions developed are the property of U.S. EPA for use by state, territorial and provincial governments.

The committee received training on exam writing, and developed 2 forms of the exam, which were then field-tested in both the U.S. and Canada. Once the field-testing was completed, the committee reconvened to rate the difficulty of the questions and to establish a cut-off score for certification.

The result of this project is two unique exams of 90 items each. The exam was developed using a professionally recognized psychometric process, and it contains material relevant to the tasks that all applicators perform. Using this exam, state and provincial programs will be able to ensure applicators are being tested on relevant material. Also, having an internationally recognized exam will facilitate reciprocity between states, provinces and nations.

The next step in the development process is pilot testing the exam with six states. It will be piloted in three different forms: computer-based, paper and pencil, and interactive. The results will be forwarded to the project’s consultant for additional psychometric analyses.

The U.S. EPA, PMRA, state and provincial governments are committed to the safe and effective use of pesticides. The development of the core exam is one more step toward insuring a knowledgeable and competent applicator industry.

For more information contact:

Certification and Worker Protection Branch
Office of Pesticide Programs
U.S. EPA (7506C)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460-0001
Phone: 703 305-7666
Fax: 703 308-2962

The Certification and Training Assessment Group has issued a draft report and proposals Exit EPA disclaimer for stakeholder review on the future of the C&T program.

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