The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) has been a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety regulation since 1992, designed to protect people working in agriculture from pesticide poisoning and injury. Agricultural workers (those involved in the production of agricultural plants) and handlers (those who mix, load, or apply crop pesticides) will have increased protection due to 2015 revisions, effective January 2017 and January 2018.
In brief, WPS applies whenever a pesticide with a WPS box (Agricultural Use Requirements) on the label is used to produce an agricultural plant on an agricultural establishment such as a farm, forest, nursery, or greenhouse. Owners and employers (managers) of agricultural establishments must provide annual pesticide safety training to workers and handlers.
Certified pesticide applicators, certified crop advisors, and immediate family members of the owner are exempt from this safety training. The definition of immediate family members is quite broad, to include the agricultural owner’s spouse, parents, stepparents, foster parents, father-in-law, mother-in-law, children, stepchildren, foster children, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and first cousins.
WPS requires that pesticide handlers and early-entry workers must have access to pesticide labeling information. Early-entry workers are those who enter a treated area before the restricted entry interval (REI) listed on the pesticide label has passed. The labeling information includes the pesticide product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
Other WPS requirements 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.
For more information see the EPA’s Revisions to the Worker Protection Standard https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/revisions-worker-protection-standard
Della King is an extension agent with the Sampson County Extension Center specializing in field crops.