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New Worker Protection Standard rules in effect now

Revisions of federal rules to protect agricultural workers from pesticide exposure took effect Jan. 2. They are the first major revisions of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Worker Protection Standard since 1992.

The EPA said changes will ensure agricultural workers are given the same workplace protection as workers in other industries. Farms not in compliance with the changes are subject to enforcement action from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Following is a highlight of WPS revisions:

Training: Annual mandatory training for workers and handlers is required. Previous training was on a five-year rotation. Workers must be trained before performing work in a treated area and handlers must also be trained before applying any pesticide. Growers must keep records of all training, maintaining those records for two years.

Minimum-age requirement: All pesticide handlers or early-entry workers must be at least 18 years old before applying any pesticide, assisting with an application, or entering a treated site before the re-entry interval has expired.

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. Safety data sheets must now be maintained and made available to workers and handlers.

Respirator requirements: When a respirator is required by product labeling, applicators must complete a medical evaluation and conduct an annual fit test. Employers must train applicators on the specific use of the respirator and maintain records of the training for two years.

Eye flush at mixing and loading sites: If protective eyewear is required by the pesticide product labeling, employers must provide a system that can deliver gently running water at a rate of four-tenths of a gallon per minute for a period of 15 minutes for emergency eye flushing for handlers at mixing/loading sites.

Application exclusion zones: During pesticide applications, agricultural employers must keep workers and other persons out of the Application Exclusion Zones surrounding the pesticide application equipment within the establishment’s property boundary.

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.

Immediate family members are exempt from some requirements of the WPS. In-laws and adopted children are now included in the definition for immediate family. 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 go into effect Jan. 2, 2018. For more information or compliance assistance on pesticide safety and worker protection standards, go online to or call 919-733-3556.

NCDA&CS Public Affairs Division, Andrea Ashby, Director
Mailing Address:1001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1001
Physical Address: 2 West Edenton Street, Raleigh NC 27601
Phone: (919) 707-3001; FAX: (919) 733-5047

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