WHAT IS THE WORKER PROTECTION STANDARD (WPS)?

EPA’s Current Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a regulation published in 1992 that is aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide poisoning and injury among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. The current WPS offers occupational protections to over 2 million agricultural workers (people involved in the production of agricultural plants) and pesticide handlers (people who mix, load, or apply crop pesticides) that work at over 600,000 agricultural establishments (farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses). The WPS requires that owners and employers on agricultural establishments provide protections to workers and handlers from potential pesticide exposure, train them about pesticide safety, and provide mitigations in case exposures may occur.


WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR COMPLYING WITH THE WPS?

  • Owners/employers on agricultural establishments that grow and harvest for commercial production:
      • Fruits and vegetables on farms
      • Timber and trees in forests and nurseries
      • Plants in greenhouses and nurseries
  • Employers of researchers who help grow and harvest plants
  • Employers at commercial pesticide handling establishments

WHAT EXCEPTIONS ARE THERE FROM THE WPS?

  • Owners and immediate family members on wholly family-owned farms are exempt from many of the WPS requirements.
  • Certified or licensed crop advisors and persons under their direct supervision who perform crop advisor tasks are exempt from certain WPS provisions except for pesticide safety training.
  • Limited and narrow circumstances: The WPS does not apply when pesticides are applied on an agricultural establishment in certain limited circumstances.

WHO IS PROTECTED BY THE WPS?

The WPS protects employees on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses from occupational exposure to agricultural pesticides and covers two types of employees:

  • Pesticide handlers: those who mix, load, or apply agricultural pesticides; clean or repair pesticide application equipment; or assist with the application of pesticides.
  • Agricultural workers: those who perform tasks related to growing and harvesting plants on farms or in greenhouses, nurseries, or forests.
    • Workers include anyone employed for any type of compensation (including self-employed) doing tasks such as carrying nursery stock, repotting plants, or watering,  or other tasks directly related to the production of agricultural plants on an agricultural establishment.
    • Workers do NOT include employees such as office employees, truck drivers, mechanics, and any other workers not engaged in worker/handler activities.

Some requirements apply to anyone doing certain tasks, such as handling pesticide application equipment or cleaning or laundering pesticide-contaminated personal protective equipment.


WHAT DUTIES DO THE EMPLOYERS HAVE?

Duties for ALL Employers
  • Do not retaliate against a worker or handler
  • Provide information at a central location
  • Provide pesticide safety training
  • Provide decontamination supplies
  • Exchange information (between a commercial handler employer and an operator of an agricultural establishment)
  • Provide emergency assistance
Additional Duties for Employers of Workers
  • Implement restrictions during applications
  • Implement restricted-entry intervals (REIs)
  • Implement protections for early entry by workers
  • Notify workers about applications and pesticide-treated areas and not to enter during the REI by:
    • Providing oral warnings and/or
    • Posting warning signs.
Additional Duties for Employers of Handlers
  • Implement restrictions during applications
  • Monitor handlers working with toxic pesticides
  • Provide specific instructions for handlers
  • Take steps to ensure equipment safety
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • Provide the required PPE in clean and good operating condition
    • Ensure the PPE is worn correctly
    • Provide a clean place for storing personal clothing and remove PPE
    • Care for, maintain, and replace damaged or worn PPE
    • Replace respirator purifying elements
    • Dispose of contaminated PPE
    • Provide instructions for people who clean PPE

HOW TO COMPLY WITH THE WPS:  WHAT EMPLOYERS NEED TO KNOW 

The Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides How to Comply Manual has been updated to reflect amendments to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), a regulation designed to protect agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. The new 2005 WPS How to Comply (HTC) Manual supersedes the 1993 version. Changes to the WPS since 1993 have made the earlier version obsolete, and its continued use may lead an employer to be out of compliance. The 2005 HTC Manual revision was coordinated by EPA’s National Agricultural Compliance Assistance Center and a workgroup consisting of  representatives from EPA Headquarters, EPA Regional Offices, and several state agencies, with input solicited from USDA and other state and tribal pesticide agencies.


WORKER PROTECTION STANDARD PROPOSED CHANGES

On February 20, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed changes to the agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to increase protections from pesticide exposure for the nation’s 2 million agricultural workers and their families. This is an important milestone for the farm workers who plant, tend, and harvest the food that we put on our tables each day.

Proposed Changes
The Environmental Protection Agency issued proposed changes to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to increase protections from pesticide exposure for the nation’s two million agricultural workers and their families. Proposed changes:

  • Annual mandatory trainings (rather than once every 5 years) to inform farm workers about the protections they are afforded under the law, including restrictions on entering pesticide-treated fields and surrounding areas, decontamination supplies, access to information and use of personal protective equipment. Expanded trainings will include instructions to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing and other safety topics.
  • 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.
  • First-time ever minimum age requirement: Children under 16 will be prohibited from handling pesticides, with an exemption for family farms.
  • New no-entry 25-100 foot buffer areas surrounding pesticide-treated fields will protect workers and others from exposure from pesticide overspray and fumes.
  • 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 and early-entry notification must be kept for two years.
  • Personal Protection Equipment (respirator use) must be consistent with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards for ensuring respirators are effective, including fit test, medical evaluation and training.
  • Requirement to make available to farm workers or their advocates (including medical personnel) information specific to the pesticide application, including the pesticide label and Safety Data Sheets

Public Commenting:
Submit your comments on the proposed changes, identified by docket identification (ID) number EPAHQ-OPP-2011-0184, by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. Do not submit electronically any information you consider to be Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute.
  • Mail:  OPP Docket, Environmental Protection Agency Docket Center (EPA/DC), Mail code: 28221T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20460. In addition, please mail a copy of your comments on the information collection provisions to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, Attn: Desk Officer for EPA, 725 17th St., NW, Washington, DC 20503.
  • Hand Delivery: To make special arrangements for hand delivery or delivery of boxed information, please follow the instructions at http://www.epa.gov/dockets/contacts.htm.

 

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