Structural Pest Control and Pesticides - Worker Protection Standard

Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides 

Regulation 2NCAC 9L .1800 (page 31)

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.

Why did the WPS Regulation change in 2015?

The new revisions to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) regulation strengthened elements of the existing rule to better protect workers and handlers from occupational exposure to pesticides and reduce the numbers of potentially preventable pesticide incidents and illnesses. These revisions also ensure workers and handlers receive workplace protections comparable to those that are already provided to workers in other industries, while still considering the unique needs of agricultural operations.

Key Defintions Relating to WPS 

It is important to review several key definitions that have been added or redefined to better understand the rule. Take a look at the following:

Application exclusion zone (AEZ) - the area surrounding the application equipment that must be free of all persons other than appropriately trained and equipped handlers during pesticide applications.

Designated representative – any persons designated in writing by a worker or handler to exercise a right of access on behalf of the worker or handler to request and obtain a copy of the pesticide application and hazard information required by 40 CFR 170.309(h) in accordance with 40 CFR 170.311(b).

Enclosed space production - production of an agricultural plant indoors or in a structure or space that is covered in whole or in part by any nonporous covering and that is large enough to permit a person to enter.

Immediate family – is limited to the 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. “First cousin” means the child of a parent’s sibling, i.e., the child of an aunt or uncle. The definition of immediate family was extended to include in-laws and adopted children.

Outdoor production – production of an agricultural plant in an outside area that is not enclosed or covered in any way that would obstruct the natural airflow.

The WPS does not apply in the following circumstances...

  • As part of government-sponsored public pest control programs over which the owner, agricultural employer and handler employer have no control, such as mosquito abatement and Mediterranean fruit fly eradication programs.
  • On plants other than agricultural plants, which may include plants in home fruit and vegetable gardens and home greenhouses, and permanent plantings for ornamental purposes, such as plants that are in ornamental gardens, parks, public or private landscaping, lawns or other grounds that are intended only for aesthetic purposes or climatic modification.
  • For control of vertebrate pests, unless directly related to the production of an agricultural plant.
  • As attractants or repellents in traps.
  • On the harvested portions of agricultural plants or on harvested timber.
  • For research uses of unregistered pesticides.
  • On pasture and rangeland where the forage will not be harvested for hay.
  • In a manner not directly related to the production of agricultural plants, including, but not limited to structural pest control and control of vegetation in non-crop areas.


January 2, 2017, WPS Revisions

  • Pesticide Application and Hazard Information

    • Growers need to display pesticide application information within 24 hours of the application and maintain the records for two years.  The Safety Data Sheets must now be maintained and made available to your workers and handlers.
  • Designated Representative

    • A Worker or Handler may designate a representative in writing, who may act on their part to request and obtain a copy of the pesticide application and hazard information for the period of their employment on a farm.
  • Minimum Age Requirement

    • All pesticide handlers or early entry workers must be at least 18 years of age before applying any pesticide or assisting with an application or entering into a treated site before the REI has expired.
  • Pesticide Safety Training

    • Annual mandatory training for workers and handlers (training is no longer on a five-year rotation).  There is now no grace period to train workers.  They must be trained before performing work in a treated area and handlers must also be trained before applying any pesticide (there has never been a grace period to train handlers).   Growers must now keep records of all training and maintain those records for two years.
    • 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 and those who have completed the train-the-trainer program can conduct pesticide safety training.
    • Training videos may be downloaded from the Pesticide Education Resource Collaborative website.
  • Eye Flush at Mixing and Loading Sites

    • Employers must provide a system that can deliver gently running water for a period of 15 minutes at a rate of .4 gallons per minute (at least 6 gallon) for emergency eye flushing for handlers at mixing/loading sites if protective eyewear is required by the pesticide product labeling.
  • Application Exclusion Zones

    • During pesticide applications, agricultural employers must keep workers and other persons out of the Application Exclusion Zones (AEZ) surrounding the pesticide application equipment within the establishment’s property boundary.
  • Respirator Requirements

    • When a respirator is required by product labeling applicators must complete a medical evaluation and be fit tested annually.  The employer must train the applicators on the specific use of the respirator and maintain records of the training for two years.

January 2, 2018 Revisions

  • Additional regulations, including the expansion of training content for workers and handlers, additional safety information and suspension of applications if someone other than a trained and equipped handler is within the application exclusion zone, which can extend beyond the establishment’s property.


Agricultural Owner Exemptions

Qualifying owner(s) of the agricultural establishment ARE NOT REQUIRED to provide the following WPS protections to themselves or members of their immediate family:

  • Minimum age for handlers and early‐entry workers. 170.309(c)
  • Provide emergency assistance. 170.309(f)
  • Provide handler training prior to cleaning, repairing or adjusting pesticide application equipment. 170.309(g)
  • Display, maintain, and provide access to pesticide safety, pesticide application and hazard information. 170.309(h) & 170.311
  • Keep records of pesticide application and hazard information required by WPS. 170.309(h) & 170.311(b)
  • Provide instruction in the safe operation of equipment used for mixing, loading, transferring or applying pesticides. 170.309(i)
  • Ensure equipment used for mixing, loading, transferring, or applying pesticides is inspected for leaks, clogging, and worn or damaged parts and make repairs as needed prior to use. 170.309(j)
  • Provide WPS training for workers and handlers. 170.401 & 170.501
  • Ensure knowledge of labeling, application-specific, and establishment specific information. 170.403 & 170.503
  • Provide visual or voice monitoring of applicator when using a pesticide product that has the skull-and-crossbones symbol on the front panel unless required by product label directions. 170.505(c)
  • Provide continuous visual or voice contact during fumigant applications. 170.505(d)
  • Provide oral and posted notifications of worker entry restrictions (i.e., REIs in effect). 170.409
  • Provide instructions on use of personal protective equipment (PPE); inspect, clean, store, and maintain PPE; and take measures to prevent and treat heat-related illness. 170.507(c)-(e)
  • Maintain decontamination sites and supplies. 170.411 & 170.509
  • Comply with early-entry provisions including minimum age, providing information, maintaining PPE and instructing on its use, instructing on how to prevent, recognize, and treat heat-related illness and providing decontamination supplies. 170.605(a)-(c) and (e)-(j)

Qualifying owners of agricultural establishments and their immediate family members MUST COMPLY with all of the following WPS requirements when using WPS-labeled pesticide products:

  • Follow WPS requirements for respirator training, medical evaluation, fit testing, and recordkeeping when respirators are required on the pesticide labeling.
  • Use the PPE listed on pesticide labeling.
  • Keep immediate family members out of the treated area until the restricted entry interval (REI) expires.
  • Ensure pesticide is applied so it does not contact anyone, including members of the immediate family (requirement on label and in WPS).
  • Keep everyone, including members of the immediate family, away from the treated area during the application and the application exclusion zone.
  • Ensure that any pesticide applied is used in a manner consistent with the product’s labeling.
  • After January 1, 2018, any handler must suspend a pesticide application if a worker or other person is in the AEZ during an application.




For more information on worker protection issues, or for additional resources and compliance assistance, please contact the NCDA&CS Pesticide Section at 984-236-4575.    Directions 

Return to Pesticide Section homepage.