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News Releases from Region 02

EPA Highlights Importance of Updated Standards to Protect the Health of New York Farmworkers

Regional Administrator Visits Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont

Contact Information: 
Jennifer May-Reddy (may.jennifer@epa.gov)
(212) 637-3658
Barbara Pualani (pualani.barbara@epa.gov )
(212) 637-3638

(New York, NY – August 18, 2016) Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined by Peter Ten Eyck, President of Indian Ladder Farms to discuss stronger protections for farmworkers and pesticide handlers required by the recently updated Worker Protection Standard. EPA finalized new federal regulations in September 2015, which will go into effect in January 2017.  Regional Administrator Enck visited the Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont today to focus on how the new standards will help New York farmworkers.

“There are approximately 100,000 farmworkers in the state of New York, and every farmworker deserves a safe and healthy work environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “EPA is committed to making sure farmworkers, farmworkers families, and pesticide applicators are not exposed to toxic pesticides.”

EPA's Worker Protection Standard rule provides stronger protections for the nation's two million agricultural workers and handlers working on farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses. The updated EPA regulation strengthens requirements for training, notification, pesticide safety and hazard communication, as well as the use of personal protective equipment and the availability of supplies for routine washing and emergency decontamination.  This new standard will protect the health of NY farmworkers and the rest of the nation’s two million farmworkers, reminding everyone that we can have a vibrant agricultural economy and healthy farmworkers. The revisions announced in September 2016 were the first changes made to the rule in 24 years.

These provisions will help ensure farmworkers nationwide receive annual safety training; that children under the age of 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides; and that workers are aware of the protections they are afforded and have the tools needed to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure. Every farm will need to comply with the new standard.  In New York, this standard will be enforced by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, with technical support from the EPA.

For workers and handlers of pesticide products on agricultural establishments, EPA will require:

  • The minimum age for pesticide handlers and early-entry workers has been established at 18 years of age – previously there was no minimum age.
  • Annual mandatory training for farmworkers so they can be informed on how to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposures. Previously, trainings happened once every five years in NY.
  • Each farmworker must now be provided with at least 1 gallon of water at the beginning of each work period and handlers must get 3 gallons of water for decontamination. No quantities of water were specifically spelled out previously.
  • Farmworkers will now be trained on safety before they go out into the field to work. Previously, farms had up to five days to offer the training.
  • Improved communication and displaying of information related to the application hazardous materials at farms.   
  • Employers must now provide respirator and fit testing, training and medical evaluation that conforms to Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for any handler required to wear any respirator by the labeling. Recordkeeping of completion of fit test, training and medical evaluation is now also required.
  • Each farm must now provide a system capable of delivering 0.4 gallons of water for eye washing per minute for 15 minutes, or 6 gallons of water able to flow for 15 minutes if handlers use products requiring eye protection or use a pressurized closed system.

Additionally, EPA is making improvements to the training programs. By better protecting agricultural workers, EPA anticipates fewer pesticide exposure incidents among farmworkers and their family members. Fewer incidents means a healthier workforce and avoiding lost wages and medical bills.

View the video to learn more about EPA’s revised worker protection standards:

Here are thoughts from a former farmworker on EPA’s revised worker protection standards: