Proposed Worker Protection Standard Changes You Need To Know About

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In an effort to give agricultural workers the same level of protection as workers in other industries, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed various updates and revisions to the current worker protection regulations for pesticides. In a Cultivate’14 presentation, held in Columbus, Ohio, Mary Ann Rose, director of the Pesticide Safety Education Program for the state of Ohio, covered the proposed changes in-depth with greenhouse and nursery professionals.

Rose says the EPA projects that the proposed changes will reduce exposure incidents and related illnesses by 2,800 incidents per year. The estimated costs of the changes will be $5 per worker and $60 per handler.

Here is a rundown of the proposed changes Rose covered in her presentation:

Training. Mandatory, verifiable training required for both workers and handlers is proposed to increase from once every five years to once a year. Expanded training content will include information on reducing take-home exposure, hazards from residues on clothing and other safety topics. Trainers will be required to attend EPA-approved train-the-trainer programs. Additionally, the trainer must be physically present through the entire worker training. The grace period before workers must receive WPS training will be reduced from five to two days.

Recordkeeping. Central display of application-specific information will be eliminated. A new requirement will take its place, which will require the same information that was previously posted, plus information on crop or area treated, start/stop times, Restricted Entry Interval (REI) expiration date, labeling and SDS sheets. Records will need to be kept for two years in either electronic or paper format.This information must be made available to workers upon request.

Respirators. Respirator use must comply with Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. A medical evaluation, fit test and respirator training and record keeping will also be required.

Warning Signs. Posting warning signs in treated areas will be mandatory when REI is greater than 48 hours.

Other proposed changes by the EPA include:

Pesticide Handling. Children under the age of 16 will be prohibited from handling pesticides, with an exemption for family farms.

Buffer Areas. No-entry 25- to 100-foot buffer areas surrounding pesticide-treated fields will now apply to farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses.

Rose says the end of the comment period on proposed changes is coming up quickly on August 18. The standard is expected to be revised by sometime in late summer of 2015.

To comment on the EPA’s proposed changes to the Worker Protection Standards, go to the comment area on the EPA website and enter the following identification number: EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0184.

Learn more about how to comply with the Worker Protection Standards by visiting the EPA website.

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