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Pesticide Worker Safety

Federal Certification Standards for Pesticide Applicators

EPA has revised the Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule. These revisions will help keep our communities safe, protect the environment and reduce risk to those applying pesticides. Learn more about the revisions and when they will go into effect.

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Federal law and regulations require any person who applies or supervises the use of restricted use pesticides (RUPs) be certified as a private or commercial applicator.

If you… … then you are a…
Apply pesticides for the production of an agricultural commodity on land you or your employer owns or rents… private applicator
Do not meet the description of a private applicator commercial applicator

EPA Standards for Certification of Private Applicators

The federal regulations require private applicators to show practical knowledge of:

  • pest problems and control practices associated with agricultural operations;
  • proper storage, use, handling, and disposal of pesticides and containers; and
  • legal responsibility;

and have the ability to:

  • read and understand pesticide labels and labeling;
  • apply pesticides according to labeling instructions and warnings; and
  • recognize
    • common pests and damage caused by them;
    • local environmental situations to be considered during application to avoid contamination; and
    • poisoning symptoms and procedures to follow in case of a pesticide accident.

Private applicators are certified by a state, territory, or tribe by:

  • Passing a written or oral test.
  • Attending a training course.
  • Another system approved by EPA.

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EPA Standards for Certification of Commercial Applicators

The federal regulations require commercial applicators to show practical knowledge of:

  • core pesticide use and safety; and
  • at least one specific category (type/site) of application.

For core pesticide use and safety, commercial applicators must show practical knowledge of:

  • Pesticide label and labeling comprehension.
  • Safety, including pesticide hazards, first aid, personal protective equipment and emergency response.
  • Pesticides in the environment.
  • Pest identification and management.
  • Pesticide formulations.
  • Pesticide application equipment and application techniques.
  • Laws and regulations.

There are 10 federal categories of certification. States, territories, and tribes may add or delete from this list:

  1. Agricultural pest control:
  • plant: production of agricultural crops.
  • animal: covers the use of pesticides on animals such as beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, sheep, horses, goats and poultry.
  1. Forest pest control.
  2. Ornamental and turf pest control.
  3. Seed treatment.
  4. Aquatic pest control: includes pesticides applied purposefully to standing or running water.
  5. Right-of-way pest control: maintenance of public roads, electric power lines, pipelines and railways.
  6. Industrial, institutional, structural and health-related pest control: covers use of pesticides in and around:
    • food handling establishments,
    • human dwellings,
    • schools,
    • hospitals and
    • industrial establishments including warehouses and grain elevators.
  7. Public health pest control: use of pesticides to control pests having medical and public health importance.
  8. Regulatory pest control: includes state, federal and other governmental employees who use or supervise the use of pesticides in the control of regulated pests, such as the Mediterranean fruit fly.
  9. Demonstration and research pest control.

Commercial applicators are certified by a state, territory, or tribe by:

  • Passing a written test.
  • Passing a performance-based test.
  • Another system approved by EPA.

Applicators must be recertified periodically to maintain certification. This generally requires continuing education courses every 3-5 years. 

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