Nov 13, 2015
New worker protection rules impact farm, greenhouse workers

Owners of farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses that use pesticides in agricultural plant production will have to implement additional safeguards for their pesticide handlers and agricultural workers under a revision to the Worker Protection Standard.

EPA published the new rules in the Federal Register Nov. 2. Compliance with most of the new rules will be required by January 2017, said Mary Ann Rose, program director for Ohio State University Extension’s Pesticide Safety Education Program.

New training content will not be required until January 2018, she said.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

The increased frequencies of training and new record-keeping requirements are probably the biggest changes, Rose said.

“The EPA has enacted these changes to reduce exposure events and illnesses associated with pesticides, as well as to offer farm workers protections similar to those industrial workers receive under Occupational Safety and Health Administration hazardous chemical regulations,” she said.

Some of the changes include:

  • Pesticide handlers and early-entry workers now must be at least 18 years old.
  • Agricultural workers and pesticide handlers must receive annual safety training, and content has been expanded.
  • The grace period for new employees is eliminated, and workers must now be trained before entering areas that have been restricted due to pesticide application during past 30 days.
  • Safety data sheets must be posted with the pesticide application information and a safety poster must be displayed at a central location.
  • If required to use a respirator by the label, handlers must have a medical evaluation, fit test and training.
  • Outdoor production areas will require posting with warning signs if the pesticide used has a restricted entry interval exceeding 48 hours.
  • A new requirement stipulates that records of pesticide applications, training verification, and respirator compliance must be maintained for two years.
  • Workers or their designated representative may request pesticide application records.

The family exemption under WPS has been expanded to include in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and first cousins, Rose said. The family exemption eliminates many WPS requirements, but not the requirement for personal protective equipment, restricted entry intervals, or other restrictions during applications.

“The biggest impact will be on horticultural growers who have many workers harvesting crops and maintaining plants,” she said, noting that the rules also apply to agronomic crop production, although with fewer workers impacted.

The Ohio Pesticide Safety Education Program provides training, education and outreach to pesticide applicators about the safe, effective and legal use of pesticides. The program works with farmers, businesses and public agencies to protect human health and the environment and serves as a critical part of job training and business growth in Ohio.

Tracy Turner, OSU Extension


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