EPA toughens Agricultural Worker Protection Standard
Pesticide exposure is focus of changes
The EPA is revising the 1992 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard to strengthen protections for the nation’s two million agricultural employees who work on farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses. The agency says the revisions will afford farmworkers similar health protections that are already afforded to workers in other industries.
Each year, thousands of potentially preventable pesticide exposure incidents are reported that lead to sick days, lost wages and medical bills resulting from contact with pesticides – an exposure risk the EPA aims to reduce through the changes in the standard.
The major revisions include:
- Annual mandatory training to inform farmworkers on the required protections afforded to them. Currently, training is only once every 5 years.
- Expanded training includes instructions to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing and other safety topics.
- First-time ever minimum age requirement: Children under 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides.
- Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides. The signs prohibit entry into pesticide-treated fields until residues decline to a safe level.
- New no-entry application-exclusion zones up to 100 feet surrounding pesticide application equipment will protect workers and others from exposure to pesticide overspray.
- Requirement to provide more than one way for farmworkers and their representatives to gain access to pesticide application information and safety data sheets – centrally-posted, or by requesting records.
- Mandatory record-keeping to improve states’ ability to follow up on pesticide violations and enforce compliance. Records of application-specific pesticide information, as well as farmworker training, must be kept for two years.
- Anti-retaliation provisions are comparable to Department of Labor’s (DOL).
- Changes in personal protective equipment will be consistent with DOL’s standards for ensuring respirators are effective, including fit test, medical evaluation and training.
- Specific amounts of water to be used for routine washing, emergency eye flushing and other decontamination, including eye wash systems for handlers at pesticide mixing/loading sites.
- Continue the exemption for farm owners and their immediate families with an expanded definition of immediate family.
Closing the gaps
“President Obama has called closing gaps of opportunity a defining challenge of our time. Meeting that challenge means ensuring healthy work environments for all Americans, especially those in our nation’s vulnerable communities,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “We depend on farmworkers every day to help put the food we eat on America’s dinner tables—and they deserve fair, equitable working standards with strong health and safety protections. With these updates we can protect workers, while at the same time preserve the strong traditions of our family farms and ensure the continued the growth of our agricultural economy.”
The EPA says the updates reflect extensive stakeholder involvement from federal and state partners and the agricultural community including farmworkers, farmers and industry.
View the video to learn more about EPA’s revised worker protection standards: www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0PMYSirxlY
These revisions will publish in the Federal Register within the next 60 days. For more information on the EPA’s Worker Protection Standard: www2.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/revisions-worker-protection-standard