Pesticides Section

Worker Protection Standard

Worker Protection Standard For Agricultural Pesticides 
Regulation 2NCAC 9L Section .1800 (Page 36)

The Worker Protection Standard (WPS), an Environmental Protection Agency regulation, was incorporated into the North Carolina Pesticide Law of 1971 in 1993 by the North Carolina Pesticide Board. It is a regulation designed to protect persons who use or come in contact with pesticide treated surfaces while in the production of agricultural plants or commodities on farms, in forests, nurseries, and greenhouses. The Standard requires employers to take steps to reduce the risk of pesticide exposure, pesticide-related illness and injury to two specific categories of employees: agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. Compliance is required when a WPS-labeled product is used for the production of an agricultural commodity or plant.

WPS Training Videos

Key Definitions Relating to WPS 

It is important to review several key definitions to assist understanding the rule. Take a look at the following:

Agricultural establishment --- any farm, forest nursery or greenhouse.

Agricultural employer --- any person who hires or contracts for services of workers/handlers, for any type of compensation, to perform activities related to the production of agricultural plants, or any person who is an owner or responsible for the management or condition of anagricultural establishment that uses workers/handlers.

Agricultural plant --- any plant grown or maintained for commercial or research purposes and includes, but is not limited to, food, feed, and fiber plants; trees; turfgrass; flowers; shrubs; ornamentals; and seedlings.

Handler --- any person, including a self employed person, who mixes, loads, transfers, applies, disposes pesticides or pesticide containers, cleans, adjusts, handles or repairs application equipment, acts as a flagger, etc.

Immediate family --- includes spouse; children; step children; foster children; parents; stepparents; foster parents; brothers; and sisters.

Restricted entry interval --- the time after the completion of a pesticide application during which entry into the treated area is restricted.

Worker --- any person, including a self employed individual, who performs hand labor tasks, including weeding, harvesting, topping, sucker removal, packing produce in the field, thinning, etc.

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Who is required to comply?

  •       Owners, or managers of an agricultural establishment
  •       Custom or commercial pesticide applicator businesses
  •       Crop Advisors or consultants
  •       Labor contractors
The standard requires employers to take steps to protect employees, themselves, and  family members by providing information about  exposure to pesticides, the means to protect against exposure, and how to decontaminate in the event of over exposure. In most instances, the type of task will define the level of protection required. In addition, the level of safety training required is dependent upon the workers and pesticide handlers activity. Family owned agricultural establishments are exempted from certain requirements of the WPS. However, the NCDA&CS strongly encourages owners to protect themselves and their families from the risks of pesticide exposure by incorporating safety measures. (Refer to the EPA How Comply Manual for more information).

Incorporated agricultural establishments. If your establishment is incorporated, all stockholders of the corporation must be members of your immediate family to be eligible for the agricultural owner exemptions. If any  stockholder of the corporation is not an immediate family member, the corporation is defined as an "owner" for the purposes of WPS and is not allowed to take advantage of the owner exemptions.

The WPS does not apply when pesticides are applied ...

  • on plants grown in home vegetable gardens and home greenhouses;
  • on plants in ornamental parks, and public or private lawns;
  • on golf courses (except those areas set-aside for plant production), or right-of-way areas;
  • for the control of vertebrate pests, such as rodents;
  • on pastures, range land or livestock or in or about animal premises;
  • for the research uses of unregistered pesticides;
  • for mosquito abatement, or similar programs sponsored by governmental entities;
  • on harvested portions of agricultural plants or on harvested timber.

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Agricultural Owner Exemptions  

Agricultural owners are NOT required to provide themselves or members of their immediate
family with the following protections of the WPS:

  •           Information at a central location
  •           Pesticide safety training
  •           Decontamination supplies
  •           Emergency assistance
  •           Notice about applications
  •           Monitoring handlers
  •           Specific handling instructions
  •           Equipment safety
  •           PPE* care, management duties
  •           Early entry duties related to training, decontamination, and PPE* responsibilities
*Ag owners must wear PPE during application and the REI if required by the pesticide label.

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Crop Advisors

In North Carolina, for the purposes the WPS only, a crop advisor means any "pest control consultant" or "pesticide applicator" currently certified or licensed in the subcategory"Demonstration and Research Pest Control".Tasks generally performed by crop advisors include assessing pest numbers or damage, pesticide distribution, or status or requirements of agricultural plants.

The WPS requires the employer of a crop advisor to provide the same protections afforded the pesticide handlers if he enters an area during a pesticide application; or before any inhalation criterion have been reached; or during a REI as long as the appropriate PPE for the handler task is worn.

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What Employers Must Do for Both Workers and Handlers

Agricultural employers and owners will meet the requirements of the WPS when the criteria for the  following areas are met.  (Certain exemptions to these requirements are covered in the How to Comply Manual).

Information at a central location

  •     Application list which includes the location and description of the area to be treated.
  •     Product name, EPA registration number, and active ingredient(s) of the pesticide.
  •     Time and date the pesticide is scheduled to be applied.
  •      Restricted entry interval for the pesticide.
Pesticide Safety Training
Pesticide safety information within the first 5 days.

WPS training before the sixth day of entry into a area where a pesticide has been applied or REI  has been in effect.

Use EPA approved training materials or materials which contain at a minimum, the requirements listed in the WPS for handlers and workers.

In North Carolina, Certified Applicators, those who have attended train-the-trainer workshops or WPS Designated Trainers can carry out such pesticide safety training.

Decontamination Supplies
Water for washing and emergency eye flushing.

Soap and single-use towels enough for workers' and handlers' needs.

For handlers, also provide a clean change of clothing and enough water to wash entire body.

Employer/Commercial Applicator Information Exchange
Specific location and description of area (s) to be treated.

Time and date of application.

Product name, EPA registration number, and active ingredient.

Restricted entry interval for the pesticide.

Notification requirements; oral/posting.

Any other specific requirements for the protection of workers and other persons during or after the application

Emergency Assistance
Make emergency transportation available for workers and handlers to an emergency medical facility

Provide information about the pesticide including:
    -EPA registration number, product name, active ingredient (s)
    -antidote, first aid, practical treatment and any other medical information from the labeling.

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Additional Duties for Worker Employers

Restrictions During Applications
Workers must be notified about the areas being treated or where REI's are in effect (orally or posting of warning signs).

Greenhouses must post all treated areas.

Restricted Entry Intervals (REI's)
Keep workers out of a treated area during the REI.

Exceptions with appropriate PPE (Early Entry Workers).
    - with no contact with anything that has been treated.
    - with contact for short term, specific, or emergency tasks.

Notice About Applications
Posted Warning Signs
Oral Warnings

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Additional Duties for Handler Employers

Application Restrictions and Monitoring
Application does not contact either directly or via drift any person who is not appropriately equipped.

Handlers using pesticides with the skull and crossbones symbols must be checked every 2 hours by sight or voice communication.

Fumigation type pesticides used in greenhouse require constant handler monitoring (visual or voice communication).
    - the handler monitoring must have the appropriate PPE immediately available if emergency entrance to provide assistance is required

Specific Instructions for Handlers
Provide labeling information and have label available for use by the handler.

Assure that the handlers knows how to correctly and safely use all equipment and how to avoid the possibilities of drift during application.

Equipment Safety
Equipment must be inspected before each days use for leaks, clogs, worn or damaged parts and either replaced or repaired

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

As the handler employer, you are required by the WPS to provide the PPE required by labeling for the task. You are to assure that the PPE is worn for the entire task and is used correctly.
              Note: The WPS states that each pesticide handler is responsible
               for wearing the required PPE during the entire handling tasks.

Provide clean PPE that is in good working order with no tears; respirators when required must fit the user correctly;

Provide a clean place away from pesticide storage or use to store personal clothing not in use and to put on and take off PPE.

Do not allow contaminated PPE to be worn or taken home.

Cleaning and Maintenance
Wash separately from other clothing;

Clean before each days use according to the manufacturer or when not specified, wash thoroughly in detergent and hot water.

Dry thoroughly and store separately from personal clothing and away from pesticide contaminated areas.

PPE contaminated with undiluted pesticides with the signal word  DANGER or WARNING must not be reused;

Comply with local and state regulation for disposal of contaminated PPE

Instructions for People Who Clean PPE
Person providing maintenance of PPE or handling equipment must be advised that the equipment may be contaminated with pesticides and provided the information for properly handling such equipment or PPE.

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Retail Establishments and Garden Centers

The WPS defines an agricultural plant as "any plant grown or maintained for commercial or research purposes...".

The retail sale of plants, including retail nurseries, retail greenhouses, and other commercial establishments such as garden centers, are required to comply with the Worker ProtectionStandard when products bearing the WPS labeling are employed for the labeled uses.

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"The Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides --- How To Comply, What Employers Need To Know." July 1993. United States Environmental Protection Agency. EPA 735-B-93-001.

" Agricultural Worker Protection Standard 40 CFR Parts 156 & 170 Interpretive Policy Q & A Document." March 15, 1995. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Office of Compliance Assurance.

"The North Carolina Pesticide Law of 1971. Regulation 2NCAC 9L .1800 Worker Protection Standards for Agricultural Pesticides." Chapter 143, Article 52 of the General Statutes of North Carolina as amended through 1995.

For more information on worker protection issues, contact Kay G. Harris, NCDA&CS at (919)733-3556 or e-mail:

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Related Links
Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center  

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NCDA&CS Structural Pest Control & Pesticide Division, James W. Burnette, Jr., Director
Mailing Address: 1090 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1090
Physical Address: 2109 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: (919) 733-3556 ; FAX: (919) 733-9796