EPA Releases Temporary Guidance on Respiratory Protection for Agricultural Pesticide Handlers During COVID-19
For Release: June 1, 2020
There is no higher priority for EPA than protecting the health and safety of Americans, especially during the COVID-19 public health emergency. EPA has heard from states and stakeholders about Personal Protective Equipment shortages in the agricultural sector. To respond to these reports and to help ensure the health and safety of America’s farmers, EPA is providing temporary guidance regarding respiratory protection requirements for agricultural pesticide handlers. Our guidance aligns with recent OSHA memos on respirators while addressing EPA’s responsibilities under FIFRA and the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS).
The temporary guidance outlines approaches to address the unavailability of required respiratory protection and respiratory fit testing that should first be exhausted before considering any alternative options. Options include:
- Use alternative NIOSH-approved respirators offering equivalent or greater respiratory protection than those required on the pesticide label;
- Hire commercial applicator services with enough respirators and respiratory protection capabilities;
- Opt to use agricultural pesticide products that do not require respirators; or
- Delay pesticide applications until another compliant option is available.
If the above options are exhausted, EPA’s guidance provides additional options with strict terms, conditions, and exhaustion requirements to minimize potential incremental risks to workers:
- Reuse and extended use of disposable N95 filter facepiece respirator;
- Use of “expired” respirators;
- Use of respirators certified in certain other countries or jurisdictions meeting protective conditions outlined; or
- Delay the annual respirator “fit test.”
This is a temporary policy. EPA will assess the continued need for and scope of this temporary guidance on a regular basis. To read the guidance in full and to learn more about EPA’s Worker Protection Standard, visit this webpage.