The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of course, requires all greenhouse operations using pesticides to train workers in their native language about safety. For years, growers have trained their employees by popping in short videos that meet the safety standards.
But growers in Virginia are taking pesticide safety training a step further by welcoming a bilingual pesticide trainer from the Telamon Corporation to their operations for more hands-on instruction.
“Our service goes a step beyond,” says Nicholas Zetts, the pesticide safety trainer for Telamon. “We offer an informal classroom setting and you have interaction with a trainer–and it’s bilingual. You’re going over information workers understand. They’re also now free to ask questions to the trainer. And it’s a completely free service.
“When you’re watching a video, no one is there to assist you.”
Zetts’ pesticide safety training sessions range from as short as 45 minutes to as long as two hours. Typically, training sessions last one hour.
“A lot of the time, the length of a session depends on how much time I’m given by the greenhouse operation,” Zetts says.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture funds most of Telamon, which also receives funds from the National Farmworker Jobs Program.
One greenhouse operation that recently took advantage of Telamon’s free service is Top 100 Grower Battlefield Farms, whose employees are now EPA certified in pesticide safety for five years. After training sessions, employers receive a roster complete with the names and signatures of the workers who are trained.
“From what I’ve seen, most farmers take care of their employees well,” Zetts says. “They want to take care of employees because they’re an investment. They don’t want them out of work because of a mishap with pesticides. So they look at us as a good thing.”