EPA program aimed at reducing ag worker injuries

By Rachel Tutor - Guest columnist

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide poisoning and injury among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. The 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) who work at agricultural establishments (farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses). Pesticides are used in agricultural production across North Carolina to kill organisms and pests that damage or destroy crops.

On Nov. 2, 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency revised the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to implement more protections for agricultural workers, handlers and their families. The WPS revisions are intended to decrease pesticide exposure incidents among agricultural workers, pesticide handlers and their families. All of the WPS revisions are now in effect. WPS training materials are available at the Pesticide Education Resources Collaborative (https://pesticideresources.org)

In addition to requiring an updated safety poster, suspending an application if someone is in the application zone and other protections, the WPS requires that anyone handling a pesticide labelled for respiratory protection complete a medical clearance, fit test and training prior to using handling the pesticide. Fit test and training must be repeated on an annual basis with medical clearance being repeated under certain conditions.

Assistance with respiratory protection requirements is available to farms, nurseries and other agricultural establishments through the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute (‘the Institute’) thanks to support from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services – Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund. Contact the Institute for more information at 252.744.1008.


1. US EPA – WPS https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/agricultural-worker-protection-standard-wps

2. Pesticide Resources Collaborative https://pesticideresources.org

3. NC Agromedicine Institute – Respiratory Protection http://www.ncagromedicine.org/program-respiratory.php

By Rachel Tutor

Guest columnist

Robin Tutor is director of the NC Agromedicine Institute in Greenville.

Robin Tutor is director of the NC Agromedicine Institute in Greenville.