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Pesticide Worker Safety

Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS)

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EPA's Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide poisoning and injury among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. The WPS offers occupational protections to over 2 million agricultural workers (people involved in the production of agricultural plants) and pesticide handlers (people who mix, load, or apply crop pesticides) who work at over 600,000 agricultural establishments (farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses). 

On November 2, 2015, EPA revised the WPS to implement more protections for agricultural workers, handlers and their families. The WPS revisions are intended to decrease pesticide exposure incidents among farmworkers and their family members. Fewer incidents means a healthier workforce and avoiding lost wages, medical bills and absences from work and school.

Most of the revised WPS requirements became effective on January 2, 2017. Two requirements went into effect on January 2, 2018:

  • The requirement for an updated safety poster, and
  • The requirement for handlers to suspend an application if a person is within the application exclusion zone.

EPA published a Federal Register notice stating the pesticide safety training materials with the expanded content required by the 2015 FIFRA Worker Protection Standard (WPS) are available for use.  The training materials with expanded content have been available at the Pesticide Education Resources Collaborative (PERC)Exit and were developed through an EPA cooperative agreement. EPA also approved training materials developed by other organizations, some of which are available on PERC’s website. Updated training materials must be used 180 days after the publication of the notice in the Federal Register.

EPA has initiated a process to consider revisions to certain requirements in the WPS. EPA expects to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit public input on proposed revisions to the WPS requirements for minimum ages, designated representatives, and application exclusion zones. The compliance dates in the revised WPS published on November 2, 2015, remain in effect; the Agency does not intend to extend them. Read the Federal Register notice. If the changes to the requirements are finalized, safety training materials will be amended to reflect such changes. Until such time, all requirements are in effect.

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What does the WPS require?

The requirements in the WPS are intended to inform workers and handlers about pesticide safety, provide protections from potential exposure to pesticides, and mitigate exposures that do occur.

Inform

  • Pesticide safety training for workers and handlers.
  • Access to specific information for workers and handlers, including:
    • pesticide applications on the establishment;
    • safety data sheets for pesticides applied on the establishment; and
    • pesticide safety information (poster) that includes emergency information.
  • Access to labeling information for pesticide handlers and early-entry workers.
  • Notify workers about pesticide-treated areas so they can avoid inadvertent exposures.
  • Information exchange between agricultural employers and commercial pesticide handler employers.

Protect

  • 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 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 and duties related to correct use of personal protective equipment.
  • Monitor handlers using highly toxic pesticides.
  • Provide and maintain required personal protective equipment to handlers.
  • If a respirator is required by a pesticide label, provide the handler with a medical evaluation, fit test and respirator training.

Mitigate

  • Decontamination supplies including a sufficient supply of water, soap and towels for routine washing and emergency decontamination and eyewash systems for certain handlers.
  • Emergency assistance by making transportation available to a medical care facility in case of a pesticide injury or poisoning, and providing information about the pesticide(s) to which the person may have been exposed.

Who is covered by the WPS?

The WPS requires owners and employers on agricultural establishments and commercial pesticide handling establishments to protect employees on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses from occupational exposure to agricultural pesticides.  The WPS protections cover two types of employees:

  • Pesticide handlers: those who mix, load, or apply agricultural pesticides; clean or repair pesticide application equipment; or assist with the application of pesticides.
  • Agricultural workers: those who perform tasks related to growing and harvesting plants on farms or in greenhouses, nurseries, or for

More information about who is covered by the WPS and responsibilities of employers.

Where can I find training materials on the WPS?

Pesticide safety training materials with the expanded content required by the 2015 revision to the WPS are available at the Pesticide Education Resources Collaborative.Exit 

Additional Information on the WPS

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